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Cubs Try To Play Spoiler In NL Central Race

(Sports Network) - St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols has taken it upon himself to get his team back into the postseason. The Chicago Cubs will try to prevent that from coming to fruition starting with Monday's opener of a three- game series at Busch Stadium.

Pujols has hit four home runs in his last five games and recorded the 38th multi-homer game of his career in Sunday's 7-3 win over the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Pujols broke a franchise record he had shared with Cardinals legend Stan Musial with a pair of blasts, pulling the Cardinals six games behind Cincinnati for the National League Central lead with 21 games left.

"The most important thing is not just the man he was on the field, but the man that he was off the field," said Pujols about Musial. "It's pretty nice to be named with him. He took the time off to serve his country and to come back and do what he did is just unbelievable. I thank God that I've been allowed the opportunity to talk to him and to read his history and what he did for this game."

Pujols, who leads the NL with 39 homers, is etching his own name in Major League history and has scored 100 runs or more nine times in his career. He's also the seventh player in baseball history with at least nine years of 30 homers, 100 runs and 100 RBI. His effort last night helped the Cardinals to a 3-4 mark on a seven-game road trip, while Brendan Ryan drove in two runs, Colby Rasmus ended with two hits and an RBI and Matt Holliday recorded two hits and a pair of runs scored in last night's finale of a four-game series.

Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse picked up the win and allowed two runs on nine hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings. He even helped his own cause with an RBI single during a crucial four-run fifth inning. Pujols started the frame with a solo shot to left field and Ryan ended the surge with a two-run triple.

St. Louis will also host San Diego for four games in the Gateway City and is 43-24 at Busch Stadium this season.

Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia gets the first crack at the Cubs tonight and looks to get back into the win column after having a three-start winning streak come to an end his previous time out last Wednesday in an 8-1 loss at the Brewers. He was roughed up for seven runs and seven hits in four innings, falling to 13-7 in 27 starts with a 2.69 earned run average.

Garcia is 4-2 in his last six decisions and is holding opposing hitters to a .242 batting average this season. The southpaw faced Chicago for the first time in his career back on August 10, 2009 at Wrigley Field and threw a scoreless inning of relief in a 6-2 loss. Garcia is 6-3 in 13 starts at Busch Stadium this season.

The Cubs will continue a nine-game road trip Monday night and missed out on a chance of a three-game sweep in Milwaukee with Sunday's 2-0 loss. Casey Coleman had a solid start go to waste and suffered the loss for allowing just one run on five hits and three walks over six frames. Thomas Diamond gave up the other run in relief.

"I felt good. I just wanted to keep the team in the game. ...It was a good start, but it could have been better," Coleman said.

Kosuke Fukudome had the only extra-base hit with a double for the Cubs, who lost for the fourth time in seven tries. Chicago shut out Milwaukee in the first two contests and will also visit Florida on the swing.

Former Notre Dame football player Jeff Samardzija draws the start for Chicago tonight in place of Carlos Silva, who's battling an elbow strain. Samardzija is 0-1 with an 18.90 ERA in four relief appearances this season and last pitched in the major leagues on April 19 at the New York Mets. In that 6-1 loss in Queens, he allowed three runs -- one earned -- and one hit.

In five relief appearances against the Cardinals, Samardzija has no record through 6 1/3 innings pitched.

Chicago has won five of nine matchups with St. Louis this season and won a three-game set at Busch Stadium in mid-August. Pujols owns six homers, 10 RBI and a .344 batting average against the Cubs this season.