After 105 games, first baseman
Albert Pujols' long nightmare is over. He hit his first home run in exactly a
month when he connected in the sixth inning to snap a scoreless tie Monday night
Pujols had hit two balls hard in his first two at-bats, and the third got into the second row of seats as Pujols, who hadn't homered since April 23, took a look at it. "The (home run) was the worst ball he hit," said manager Tony La Russa, who has been the slugger's biggest supporter.
La Russa said Pujols might have taken a bad swing every once in awhile "because he's human. But they're pitching him like he's hitting .350. So every at-bat is a tough at-bat for him."
But there was so much
more to the Cardinals' 3-1 win over the Padres, increasing their National League
Central lead to 3 1/2 games over
As he has done all season, right-hander Kyle Lohse was excellent. For the fifth time in 10 starts, he worked at least eight innings, gaining his sixth win by giving up only five hits in eight innings.
As he has done all season, third baseman Daniel Descalso got the most out of a little. Descalso, who entered the game hitting just .213, knocked in his 16th run with only his 25th hit when he singled home the go-ahead run against San Diego All-Star Heath Bell in the ninth inning.
Descalso is 9-for-24 in "close and late" situations (seventh inning or later in tight game). A savvy rookie, Descalso alertly took second on the throw home from right field in the ninth inning, moved up on pinch hitter Allen Craig's long flyball and scored an insurance run on shortstop Ryan Theriot's two-out single.
As he hadn't done since April 15, second baseman Skip Schumaker got to play in a major league game. Schumaker, brought back from a rehabilitation option for his strained right triceps, doubled and scored the lead run in the ninth besides making a strong play defensively in the early innings.
And, as nobody had done
for the Cardinals this season, center fielder Colby Rasmus made a
home-run-saving catch. Rasmus' glove was well over the center-field wall as he
"That was a game-changer right there," said Lohse. "After that, I wasn't going to hang any more sliders."
NOTES AND QUOTES
RHP Mitchell Boggs was
sent to Class AAA Memphis to make room on the roster for the return of 2B Skip
Schumaker from the disabled list. Boggs had three saves in his first three tries
before he blew one and then was yanked from the role. With RHP Fernando Salas
having taken over the closer's role with saves in his first eight tries, Boggs
will work as a starter at
2B Skip Schumaker, out since April 15 with a strained right triceps and a ligament problem in his elbow, probably returned a little sooner than expected from his rehabilitation option in Florida, with the Cardinals a little short on position players. LF Matt Holliday sat out because of a strained left quadriceps.
C Gerald Laird, as
expected, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken right index
finger, suffered when he was hit by a pitch on Sunday in
With a bigger right field
than left field at
OF Jon Jay had three more hits, giving him 15 hits in his last 38 at-bats. He also has played accomplished defense in all three outfield positions.
La Russa was ejected in the eighth inning after 1B Albert Pujols, hopping into the air, had shown some frustration with a called third strike registered by home-plate umpire Jim Joyce. "I just went out there to save Albert," said La Russa. "I said (to Joyce), 'You're better than that.' If I was an umpire, I probably would have ejected me, too."
RHP Brian Broderick, a
Rule 5 selection by
BY THE NUMBERS: 106 - At-bats 1B Albert Pujols had gone without a homer before he connected Monday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The line-up is deeper. We have a chance every inning we hit."
- Manager Tony La Russa on his team's improved offense this year.
LF Matt Holliday (tight left quadriceps) left the May 22 game and did not play May 23.
C Gerald Laird (broken right index finger) was injured May 22. He was placed on the disabled list May 23 and will be out until July.
INF Nick Punto (right forearm flexor strain) went on the 15-day disabled list May 18.
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.
RHP Bryan Augenstein (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list April 13. He was transferred 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.