PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Allen Craig hit two homers and drove in three runs, Chris Carpenter gave up eight hits in eight innings, and the St. Louis Cardinals improved their playoff chances with a 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday night.

Albert Pujols also homered for the Cardinals (83-69), who pulled within 3 1/2 games of the Atlanta Braves in the NL wild-card chase with their ninth win in 11 games. The Cardinals remained 6 1/2 back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.

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Carpenter (10-9) recorded all but four of his outs by groundballs, and induced three double plays. Only three Phillies reached second and none advanced to third. Carpenter finished with five strikeouts and one walk.

Chase Utley had three hits for the Phillies (98-53), who rested just two starters a day after clinching their fifth straight NL East title. First baseman Ryan Howard, who is battling a nagging left ankle injury, and catcher Carlos Ruiz didn’t start for Philadelphia. Howard is scheduled to have an anti-inflammatory injection in the ankle on Monday.

Pujols put the Cardinals up 2-0 in the first inning by launching Cole Hamels’ first pitch into the second deck in left field. The St. Louis slugger had been just 3 for 20 (.150) off Hamels entering the game. It was the 36th homer for Pujols, who is five RBIs shy of 100 in his quest for his 11th straight season of batting .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs. He went 1 for 4 and his averaged dropped a point to .300.

St. Louis increased the margin to 4-0 in the sixth on Craig’s two-run shot. Craig twice failed in sacrifice bunt attempts, but he made up for it with a long drive to deep left center. Craig’s homer was the 17th allowed by Hamels this season, which is the most on the heralded Phillies staff.

Craig added a solo shot to center in the eighth off Joe Blanton.

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Hamels (14-9) was vying to tie his career high with 15 wins, but two bad pitches did him in. Outside of the homers, the left-hander was solid with nine strikeouts and no walks.

Philadelphia remained four victories shy of setting a franchise record for wins in a season.

Fernando Salas completed the shutout with a scoreless ninth.

Notes: Right-hander Justin DeFratus, making his major league debut, pitched a scoreless ninth for the Phillies. Pujols has now reached safely in 34 straight games. St. Louis outfielder Matt Holliday missed his fourth straight game with an inflamed tendon on his right middle finger. The Phillies’ crowd of 45,063 was the club’s 199th regular-season sellout and 212th straight overall, counting postseason. .. Philadelphia was shut out for just the sixth time this season. … Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse (13-8, 3.62) is scheduled to face right-hander Roy Halladay (18-5, 2.34) at 7:05 Monday night in the finale of the four-game series.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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