Cardinals Major League Notebook: 05/31/10

Albert Pujols' three home runs Sunday powered the Cardinals to a much-needed series win at Wrigley Field over the Chicago Cubs.



Albert Pujols, seemingly hampered by knee, heel and perhaps elbow problems this season, delivered a loud-and-clear message to those who had wondered what had happened to his power. After hitting just one home run in the first 26 days of May, Pujols clouted one Friday and then put on a dazzling three- homer display -- all of them were 400-foot-plus drives -- on Sunday at Chicago's Wrigley Field.

"I just laugh when people say, 'He's struggling and we have to get rid of him,'" said Pujols, chuckling. "Sometimes, people try to take the game for granted. This game is hard.

"Sometimes, you have great games and sometimes you struggle. I know what I'm capable of doing. It's not how you start. It's how you finish."

The Cardinals, who have been notoriously poor in delivering in clutch situations this year, made hitting coach Mark McGwire smile by scoring all nine of their runs with two out Sunday. The igniter was Ryan Ludwick, who raised his average to .444 with runners in scoring position with a run-scoring single in the fifth to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead against right-hander Ryan Dempster. Pujols followed with a two-run homer and the rout was on.

"Our game plan was not to guess," said Pujols, "but just to look for a good pitch to hit."

Pujols' fourth three-homer game (one of the others also came in Chicago) tied him for the club record with Johnny Mize. McGwire had a trio of three-homer games for the Cardinals. Pujols has 36 games of two homers or more for the Cardinals, one off Hall of Famer Stan Musial's club mark.

CARDINALS 9, CUBS 1: RHP Adam Wainwright, his curveball and fastball equally sharp, raised his season's mark to 7-3 and won for the fifth straight time against the Cubs as he fanned eight in seven strong innings. Wainwright did his best work in the fourth when, protecting a 1-0 lead, he got Chicago SS Starlin Castro to bounce into a rally-killing double play with the bases loaded. 1B Albert Pujols hit three home runs and drove in four for the Cardinals.


LF Matt Holliday is 10 for his last 17 after stringing together four consecutive multi-hit games, including four hits on Sunday. The power is yet to come for the cleanup hitter. Nine of the hits were singles and the other a double.

The Cardinals are likely to make a roster move before Monday afternoon's game against the Cincinnati Reds. The club has 13 pitchers at present and one probably will be sent out so that the club can bring up another position player for its early-season showdown against Cincinnati.

CF Colby Rasmus, dogged by a stretch in which he had fanned 14 times in his last seven starts, got a day off and was replaced by Jon Jay. Jay had one hit in five at-bats, but contributed defensively in the second inning Sunday when he made a strong throw home where C Yadier Molina fielded a one-bounce peg and applied the tag to sliding Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez for the final out of the inning.

For what it's worth, light-hitting but slick-fielding SS Brendan Ryan started only three games on the Cardinals' six-game trip to San Diego and Chicago. Those were the only games the Cardinals won.

Sunday's win gave the Cardinals a 2-1 series victory. It was the first series they had won at Wrigley since April 20-22, 2007.

By the Numbers:

34-Consecutive games (he played every inning) before rookie 3B David Freese was rested May 28.

Quote to Note:

"That's why those guys scout and I'm playing."

-1B Albert Pujols, referring to those baseball people who had sounded off on what had happened to Pujols' extra-base pop. Pujols hit three homers in a game for the fourth time in his career May 30.




Medical Watch:

RHP Kyle Lohse (right forearm strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 23. He had surgery May 28 to alleviate muscle discomfort, and the timetable for his return was uncertain.

RHP Brad Penny (strained upper back) went on the 15-day disabled list May 22. He might return mid June.

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