06/02/2003 10:33 PM ET
Pujols is NL Player of the Month
ST. LOUIS -- A month that began with uncertainty as to whether Albert Pujols could play the field ended with the St. Louis slugger named the Pepsi Player of the Month for the National League. Pujols, the runner-up for NL MVP honors in 2002, beat out a stout field of contenders including Kenny Lofton and his 26-game hitting streak and Rafael Furcal, who scored a ridiculous 35 runs in May.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Pujols hit .345 (40-for-116) for the month with 10 homers, 26 RBIs, 25 runs and 12 doubles. He posted a .394 on-base percentage and .707 slugging percentage. For the season, he leads the Majors with a .364 average and .701 slugging percentage.
"I don't think about it at all," Pujols said of contending for the batting title. "You talk to me in September, if I'm hitting .390 then I'll tell you I'm real happy. But right now I just want to go out there and do what I have to do to get my team to win."
He adjusted well to a strained elbow ligament, splitting time between left field and first base, and never let the injury slow his offensive production. Pujols tallied 12 multi-hit games for the month, and from May 19-22 he homered in four consecutive games. He is the only player in Major League history to start his career with two seasons hitting .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs.
Pujols stands out for his consistency. He didn't go hitless in consecutive games for the entire month, and has gone hitless in back-to-back starts just once all year.
"Not many guys," said manager Tony La Russa recently, "stay hot for six months -- like Albert."
It's been a season full of honors for St. Louis. Pujols was named Pepsi Player of the Week for the week spanning the end of April and beginning of May, and Matt Morris also took home player of the week honors once this season.
Pujols has been one of few offensive constants for a Cardinals team struck repeatedly by injuries. Jim Edmonds, Tino Martinez and Mike Matheny slumped for much of May. Eli Marrero and Fernando Vina are on the disabled list with serious injuries.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.