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Pujols' power lifts Cards in playoffs10/14/2004 8:32 PM ET
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- With one swat of the bat, Albert Pujols sent the St. Louis Cardinals back to the Promised Land. Again and again and again. He did it in Game 4 of the National League Division Series last Sunday at Dodger Stadium, burying Los Angeles with a three-run poke. He did it again in Game 1 of the NLCS on Wednesday night, answering Carlos Beltran's first-inning, two-run homer with a two-run shot of his own in the bottom the inning. And when he came to bat to lead off the eighth inning against Houston reliever Dan Miceli on Thursday night, Pujols did it again, sending a long drive into the left-field seats at Busch Stadium that didn't seem to want to come down. His second homer of the series, and fourth of the playoffs, was the game-winner in a 6-4 Cardinals victory that gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"It's great," Pujols said. "I mean, these last three home runs have been great because I am helping my team win games. It came at the right time. Tonight was even bigger. Before you go over there to Houston, I think you need this win to feel some comfort. We have to go over there and just keep winning the way we've been doing."If Pujols keeps hitting the way he is, undoubtedly the Cardinals will keep winning. Scott Rolen, who came out of a 1-for-18 postseason slump with two homers on Thursday night, followed Pujols with an insurance shot that was higher, longer and farther than the one the Cards' first baseman had just hit.
It was the first time in the Redbirds' illustrious history that they hit back-to-back homers in a postseason game."Well, it's a special honor," said Rolen, who along with Pujols and Larry Walker, was 6-for-12 in the game with four homers, six RBIs and five runs scored. "I don't think we're out here for individual accolades, so to speak. The numbers that matter the most are 6-4 [score] tonight." Try on these numbers, though: In this series, Pujols is hitting .714 (5-for-7) with two homers, three RBIs and four runs scored. That follows a four-game series against the Dodgers in which he hit .333 (5-for-15) with two homers and five RBIs. And that followed a regular season in which Pujols hit .331 with 46 homers and 123 RBIs. Obviously, the three-time All-Star is a model of consistency. And now a national audience is getting a chance to witness what the St. Louis fans have seen for the last four years. His 506 RBIs in his first four seasons places him in elite company. He's only the third player in baseball history to amass 500 RBIs in his first four campaigns. The other two are Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.
And here's the scary thing: Pujols is only 24 years old."Yeah, you mention home runs, but he's just a really good hitter," Cards manager Tony La Russa said about his star who has been playing all season with a sore right instep that may need post-playoff surgery. "He starts rallies with singles, doubles. What you see so far in the postseason, he's had four years of that." La Russa hopes Pujols will do it again and again and have six more games of that, carrying the Cardinals to the Promised Land of their 10th World Series victory.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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