Practice made perfect for Albert Pujols.
After a round of early batting practice Thursday afternoon at Busch Stadium, the slugger went 4-for-4 that night as the Cardinals won a game they almost had to win.
The 5-2 victory over
Manager Tony La Russa, suggesting it was too early to make many judgments, said, "Do or die is when you get down to that last couple of weeks and those numbers are staring you in the face. If you do it, then you can win. And you die if you lose.
"But right now ... you've
got to accumulate wins. It's got to be the same (Friday against
Carpenter, for the first time, evened his record this season. He scattered 10 hits and three walks over eight innings to post his seventh win in his last eight decisions. Carpenter (8-8) induced four double plays.
Pujols, who had one hit
in his last 28 at-bats against
When La Russa had been
asked about Pujols' struggles against
After Thursday's game, La Russa said, "I think that's a bet we'd all make, if you think about it. I wouldn't bet against him or Carp."
After the Brewers scored both their runs off Carpenter in the top of the first, Rafael Furcal belted the 27th leadoff homer of his career to start the Cardinals on the way back in the bottom half.
One out later, Pujols hit
his 28th of the season, tying him for the league lead with teammate Lance Berkman. Berkman, who also had struggled against
Fernando Salas posted his 22nd save in 25 tries with a perfect ninth.
LF Matt Holliday was out of the lineup against the Brewers for a second straight game, the result of a strained lower back suffered when he stretched for a weight while working out before Wednesday's game. Manager Tony La Russa said he expected Holliday to play sometime this weekend.
La Russa said, "If it's the back, you could have a little discomfort and it's stupid to play him. You play a guy with a bad back that takes a big swing … if he's got a little discomfort, it becomes big discomfort. I just know, if you mess around with backs, be sure."
LHP Arthur Rhodes, 41,
signed with the Cardinals after being let go by
In 34 games, Cruz hit .258/.333/.339 with no homers and six RBI.
RHP Chris Carpenter never had a perfect inning out of eight Thursday, although he ended four innings with double plays. "It was a battle all night," said Carpenter, who threw 119 pitches.
SS Rafael Furcal, who hit a leadoff homer in the first inning Thursday, has hit safely in six consecutive games, going 7-for-28 in that span. "I know I'm struggling a little bit," said Furcal, who is batting .207. "Sometimes I get a hit my first at-bat and then the other three, I don't do anything. That's happened a lot."
C Yadier Molina extended his hitting streak to 14 games (21-for-51, .412) with a single in his final at-bat. He hit safely in 12 games before he was suspended and then two games since returning.
BY THE NUMBERS: 41-10 - The Cardinals' record when they score last in a game this season. That's tops in the National League.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nine playoffs. I want a championship now."
- SS Rafael Furcal, who has been to the postseason nine times with the Braves and the Dodgers.
INF Nick Punto (strained left oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list July 29.
RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Springfield on July 7 but had renewed soreness soon after and was shut down until late August or early September. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31.
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.
VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
Tony La Russa, Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter discuss the turnaround the Cardinals made Thursday.