Despite Albert Pujols’ struggles, the St. Louis Cardinals
haven’t missed a beat offensively thanks largely to the surging
Holliday looks to keep up his torrid pace as the Cardinals
continue their four-game set with the visiting Florida Marlins on
Holliday, batting a major league-best .409, went 2 for 5 on
Tuesday with his fourth home run to extend his hitting streak to
nine games. While the All-Star left fielder has been the driving
force behind the Cardinals’ offense, Daniel Descalso’s first-career
homer – a three-run shot in the seventh inning – proved decisive in
the 7-5 victory over Florida (18-10).
“I’m not a big home run guy,” said Descalso, who has seen
increased playing time recently due to injuries to third baseman
David Freese and second baseman Skip Schumaker.
“I just go up there and try to put a line-drive swing on it, and
every once in a while they jump out of the park.”
The Cardinals (17-13) lead the majors with 161 runs and a .293
team batting average, surprising achievements considering they
aren’t getting much production from Pujols.
The three-time NL MVP, who saw his average drop to .231 after
Tuesday’s 0-for-5 effort, grounded into his league-worst 10th
double play and stranded six baserunners.
Pujols is mired in a 2-for-20 slump in his last five games and
hasn’t recorded an extra-base hit in his last nine – his second
such stretch of the season.
“As long as he doesn’t get discouraged,” manager Tony La Russa
said. “He’ll be fine because he’s smart and tough-minded. He won’t
allow himself to be less than his best.”
Florida first baseman Gaby Sanchez has been anything but quiet
of late. After hitting a grand slam in Monday’s 6-5 win, Sanchez
matched a career best with four hits Tuesday.
“I’m starting to feel better with my swing, that’s for sure,” he
said. “Little things I’ve been doing, like working off the tee,
they’re starting to pay off for me.”
Sanchez is 1 for 2 against probable St. Louis starter Chris
Carpenter (0-2, 3.89 ERA), who is winless in his first six
Carpenter allowed three runs and a season-worst 10 hits in seven
innings Friday at Atlanta, though the Cardinals eventually won 5-3
in 11 innings.
The right-hander, who is 0-1 with a 2.37 ERA in three home
starts, is 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA in his last two starts against the
Javier Vazquez (2-2, 6.39), the active career leader in
strikeouts with 2,388, has been anything but overpowering this
season but earned his second victory in Friday’s 7-6 win at
Cincinnati. The right-hander allowed four runs and four hits in six
innings and struck out three. He also provided an offensive spark,
going 2 for 2 with a run scored and an RBI.
“Vazquez was a thorn in our side with his hitting, as much as
his pitching,”Reds manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com.
Lance Berkman, whose .402 average ranks second to Holliday’s, is
5 for 27 (.185) lifetime versus Vazquez, while Colby Rasmus and
Yadier Molina are a combined 1 for 17. In contrast, Pujols is 8 for
21 with a homer against the Puerto Rico native.
Berkman left Tuesday’s game with leg tightness but is likely to
be available Wednesday.