After failing to win the Home Run Derby and going hitless in the All-Star game in his hometown, Albert Pujols got back to doing what he does best Friday, helping the Cardinals win games.
Pujols smacked two solo homers -- giving him 34 for the season and eight multi-homer games this year -- and made three outstanding defensive plays as the Cardinals extended their lead in the National League Central Division to three games.
"At this point," said manager Tony La Russa, "he should be considered with the greatest players who've ever played. He's got to keep doing it, doing it, doing it but...
"My favorite thing to say about him is he comes to the ballpark every day trying to figure out how he personally can help his team win."
Pujols said, "That's what I try to do. He's not lying. He's not making up things. Whatever I can to do help my ball club."
La Russa said, "Obviously, there's his bat. But there's his glove, his legs, his leadership, helping players when they want to come to him. He's a really smart player, not just a smart hitter. And then today, what dropped out of the bottom is a couple of home runs and three runs scored."
While Pujols dismissed how tired he might have been during the All-Star festivities when he seemingly was everywhere and doing everything, La Russa said Pujols surely had to be drained.
"The demands on him were incredible," La Russa said.
Pujols, however, said, "You have to do a lot of things but you need to be honored to be an All-Star. There are so many guys who wish they could have the opportunity. I'm pretty blessed and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be an All-Star in the town where I play.
"You know what? On Wednesday, you look back and say, 'Wow, it was worth it.' Those are the great moments you take with you."
CARDINALS 6, DIAMONDBACKS 1: RHP Chris Carpenter, experiencing command issues early, nevertheless worked eight scoreless innings, pitching around seven hits, one hit batsman and one walk, as he scored his eighth win. RF Ryan Ludwick knocked in two more runs after an intentional walk to 1B Albert Pujols, giving him 18 RBIs in his last nine games.
--OF Nick Stavinoha hit only the Cardinals' second pinch homer of the season although he has been a valuable reserve with 15 runs batted in for 18 hits. "I've been a lot more successful off the bench this year than I was last year, so I'm starting to learn," Stavinoha said.
--Doctors still are conducting tests on OF Rick Ankiel's right shoulder and neck. Ankiel's shoulder has been weak since he crashed into the wall on May 4. Ankiel, who is two for his last 30, said, "It's been long enough now and we've done enough exercises that (the shoulder muscle) should be firing. Obviously, we knew it was weak. I'm not surprised. We want to find out why. Get it right and get it corrected."
--General manager John Mozeliak said the Cardinals would be open to trade possibilities before the July 31 deadline. However, it doesn't seem they have the prospects to land either Toronto RHP Roy Halladay or Oakland OF Matt Holliday.
--The Cardinals will play every day the rest of this month, They will be off five days in August and four in September. At 91 games, the Cardinals had played more games than anybody else in the major leagues before Thursday.
--INF-OF Mark DeRosa is likely to be activated Saturday night after a good batting practice session on Friday. DeRosa has been on the 15-day disabled list with a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. But, for peace of mind, DeRosa said, he ultimately wants to have surgery on the wrist. "I know even if I'm able to manage myself through this, I'd like to be able to go into spring training next year at 100 percent. Without the surgery, that's not going to be the case," he said.
--Injured 3B Troy Glaus, five for his first 21 on a rehabilitation option at Class A Palm Beach, is expected to take his next step at Class AAA Memphis when that team returns home Monday. Glaus hasn't rebounded from right shoulder surgery in January and, while able to hit, still can't throw without discomfort although he played first base on Friday night for Palm Beach, going 2-for-4.
--C Yadier Molina picked off his sixth runner of the season and 32nd of his career when he caught Arizona's Mark Reynolds at first base in the sixth. "(Molina's) release is so quick, his throw is so strong and so accurate, the alternative is to stand right next to first base and that's a terrible way to try to run bases," manager Tony La Russa said.