Ichiro hit a 428-foot home run on the second pitch of the game, but the Mariners couldn't slow St. Louis hitters in a loss to the Cardinals.

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ST. LOUIS — The Mariners’ first venture into St. Louis since 2004 and first at new Busch Stadium got off to an auspicious enough start.

On the second pitch of the game from Adam Wainwright, one of the best pitchers in the National League, Ichiro blasted a 428-foot home run to right. Chone Figgins followed with a single and came around to score.

Can you say, “Down hill from there?”

With Wainwright transforming to excellence after the first inning, contrasting with shaky pitching from Seattle starter Luke French followed by shakier pitching from Ian Snell, the Cardinals blasted the Mariners Monday night, 9-3.

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The Cardinals gave the Mariners a seminar on middle-of-the-order production. After a lineup shakeup by manager Tony La Russa, their Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters — Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick — combined to get on base 10 times, drive in five runs (four by Ludwick) and score six.

French, making his first start this season after sparkling at Class AAA Tacoma (6-2, 1.93 earned-run average), immediately gave back the two runs and one more, in the bottom of the first. The big hit was a three-run homer by Ludwick, St. Louis’s new cleanup hitter, who moved from second to fourth in the order.

Holliday, who signed a seven-year, $120 million contract last winter to stay in St. Louis, had never hit second in his career before Monday. He had just 24 runs batted in this season.

After the first, the Mariners had just one more hit off Wainwright through the seventh inning. He was lifted after giving up two hits to start the eighth, leading to one more Mariner run. But by that time the Cardinals had the game well in hand.

They scored another run in the third on a sacrifice fly by Ludwick, then broke it open against Snell in the fifth. In four innings, French gave up six hits, four runs and two walks without a strikeout.

Snell immediately walked Pujols and gave up a double to Ludwick to start the fifth, leaving runners at second and third.

Yadier Molina grounded sharply to third baseman Jose Lopez, who threw home to try to get Pujols. However, the ball caromed off Pujols’ helmet and careened toward the Cardinals’ dugout as both runners scored.

Pujols, the three-time NL Most Valuable Player, was clearly shaken up and had to be tended to by the Cardinals’ trainer. He stayed in the game, however. Colby Rasmus followed with a two-run homer to right-center to give St. Louis an 8-2 lead.

Snell was pitching for the first time since giving up eight runs in 1-2/3 innings against Texas last Wednesday, an outing that cost him a rotation spot for the second time this year.

The next question, once again, concerns his continued presence on the team, especially with Doug Fister due off the disabled list on the next homestand. Snell came back to strike out the side in the sixth around a Pujols walk, but the four earned runs in two innings raised his ERA from 5.89 to 6.41.

The Mariners are 2-6 on their current trip, with two more to play in St. Louis.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com.

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