Albert Pujols "We can win this division"

"If we can keep winning, we can win this division."

After hitting only 27 home runs in their first 47 games, the Cardinals exploded for 13 homers on their recent seven-game trip, on which they won four of the last five games after dropping the first two.

But manager Tony La Russa doesn't want his team to become focused on home runs.

"It's a proven fact that home runs are something (that) if you talk about them, you hit less," he said. "You cannot have guys going up there thinking, 'I'm going to hit this ball for power."

Two of the five homers clouted Sunday in Houston were by Albert Pujols, who has hit .397 in the last three weeks.

"I've been taking what they give me and not trying to be too greedy," Pujols said.

"I was chasing a lot of bad pitches. Now I just let the game and the pitcher come to me."

As the Cardinals prepare for the start of a six-game stand against Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Angels, they are in second place, six games off the pace in the National League Central Division despite being six games under .500.

Pujols is unconcerned about the 24-30 record.

"Everything is there," he said. "I told the guys, 'Don't worry about what Milwaukee is doing. Don't worry about Houston, Chicago or whoever is in our division. Worry about ourselves and what we need to do to win."

NOTES AND QUOTES

--3B Scott Rolen, who missed the last two games of the Houston series after coming out early in the first game because of a right hamstring strain, might be ready for the start of the Cincinnati series Tuesday night. But manager Tony La Russa said, "We're not going to push it."

--RHP Todd Wellemeyer, who gave up three runs in five innings Wednesday in Colorado, will make his second start for the Cardinals on Tuesday.

--C Brian Esposito, who had been purchased from the Cardinals' Class AAA farm team at Memphis, probably will be returned there when veteran C Kelly Stinnett is activated Tuesday. Stinnett, who had retired from the Los Angeles Dodgers' Class AAA Las Vegas team, was acquired from the Dodgers' organization for cash considerations Sunday.

--LHP Mark Mulder, who has been rehabilitating at the Cardinals' spring training complex in Jupiter, Fla., following September shoulder surgery, will rejoin the club this week in St. Louis and begin throwing off the mound. Mulder is expected to be able to pitch for the Cardinals in early August. But pitching coach Dave Duncan said, "If I was to predict a time, I would be doing nothing but guessing."

--LF Chris Duncan may be able to play in the Cincinnati series. Duncan has been laid low by a staph infection in his left leg.

--Despite their modest record, the Cardinals have lost just one game they led after seven innings and haven't lost any when ahead after eight innings.


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