Manager Tony La Russa, brainstorming in his first night back on the job after a week's medical leave, scrapped his original lineup and crafted one that had Gold Glove first baseman Albert Pujols starting at third base for the first time since September 2002.
This meant that Nick Punto, who was at third base, would move to second base, and both Pujols and Punto excelled defensively as Jake Westbrook and two relievers pitched their way to a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Pujols had played a couple of innings at third base on May 1 but hadn't started at the position since Sept. 23, 2002. He handled five chances cleanly, including starting a double play after going to his left for a high bouncer to end the sixth and sprawling to take a hit away to start the seventh.
Punto, besides getting two singles, driving in one run and scoring another, turned in perhaps the best play of the night in the eighth. He ranged to his left to spear Jimmy Rollins' bouncer and then turned and fired to second to start a double play on the speedy Phils' leadoff man.
"That was a big-league-plus double play," said La Russa.
The original lineup, as La Russa sought to stack as many right-handers as he could against Phils left-handed ace Cliff Lee, had Allen Craig at second base, where he had made only one big-league start, and La Russa said he didn't feel comfortable with that.
And Pujols had volunteered to play third, an action that thoroughly impressed La Russa. "I've repeated it for 10 years and now we're on 11. This guy's so special. Whenever he does something that's extra special, I point it out," said La Russa.
"He volunteers to play third base. There are other stars who would do that. But I don't know if there are that many. Albert is very special."
Craig wound up in right field and Lance Berkman at first base, where he was replaced by Pujols for the ninth inning.
NOTES AND QUOTES
RHP Fernando Salas, the newest of the Cardinals' closers, had a perfect ninth for his fourth save in four opportunities. Salas' 1-2-3 ninth was the first perfect inning in a save posted by a Cardinals closer this season. The team has 13 saves in 22 opportunities.
RHP Jake Westbrook (3-3) limited the Phils to four hits in seven innings after entering the game with a 6.92 earned run average. He had allowed 51 hits in 39 innings, but his sinkerball apparently was effective as he got 13 groundball outs in seven innings.
2B Skip Schumaker, sidelined a month with a right triceps injury, appears ready for a rehab assignment. Schumaker has been taking extra work in the infield and hit for an entire week at home while the club was on the road last week. "I'd like to get my timing down, and hopefully it will only take a couple of (minor league) games," he said. Schumaker, a converted outfielder who was asked if he ever thought he would see the day when his infield defense would be missed, answered, "Never in my life."
CF Colby Rasmus, who missed Sunday's and Monday's games with what he said feels like a cramp in his abdominal area, underwent ultra-sound treatment among other medical attention Monday. Nothing untoward was found, and Rasmus said he could be able to play Tuesday. "It feels better today for sure than it has been," said Rasmus, who hurt himself lifting weights a week ago. "(Sunday) it didn't feel real good."
RHP Jess Todd, who used to be with the Cardinals, was claimed on waivers from the New York Yankees and assigned to Class AAA Memphis. RHP Bryan Augenstein, out with a groin injury, was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL but should be ready for a rehab assignment in a week or so.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 - RBI by CF Jon Jay in his last five games. He had two before that.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The biggest mistake I made was in not treating the pain. I went through all that agony for nothing. I wished I'd taken the pain medicine sooner. I wasted a month."
- Manager Tony La Russa, lamenting how he treated a virus that later was diagnosed as shingles.
CF Colby Rasmus (right rib cage strain) missed just his second start of the season on May 15 and was out again May 16. Rasmus said he felt pain after lifting weights on the May 9 off-day. He thinks he'll be able to play May 17.
3B David Freese (broken left hand) went on the 15-day disabled list May 2. He had surgery May 3, and he is expected to be out until mid- to late July.
2B Skip Schumaker (strained right triceps) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 16. He might start a rehab assignment during the week of May 16-22.
LHP Bryan Tallet (fractured right hand) went on 15-day disabled list April 13. He was throwing but not catching in early May, and may begin a rehab assignment this week.
RHP Bryan Augenstein (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list April 13 and was moved to the 60-day DL on May 16.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season.