Next time Albert Pujols comes to the plate with a chance to win it, the Chicago Cubs might just take the bat out of his hands. Even with the bases empty.
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After Pujols hit his second homer of the game with two outs in the 12th inning to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 victory on Saturday, Cubs manager Mike Quade second-guessed his decision to pitch to the three-time NL MVP.
”I’m not in the habit of walking people with two out and nobody on,” Quade said. ”I understand how good this guy is, so we’ll have to rethink that a little bit.
”You figure you can keep him in the ballpark, you take your chances, and we couldn’t,” he said.
Pujols hit the ninth game-ending homer of his career and first since Aug. 16, 2009, against the Padres on a 2-1 pitch from Jeff Samardzija (3-2) as the Cardinals prevailed in 95-degree heat. He has 41 career multihomer games, two of them this season, and has homered three times the last two games to emerge from a power funk.
”You can do a lot of good things in two months and you can struggle in two months,” Pujols said. ”Hopefully, it’s my time now.”
St. Louis relievers retired 17 in a row to end it, with Eduardo Sanchez (2-1) striking out two in two perfect innings. The Cubs have lost eight of 10 and didn’t get a hit after Carlos Pena’s infield single with one out in the seventh.
This was only Pujols’ second game with multiple extra-base hits of the season, and he drove in four runs. Pujols hit a two-run shot off Randy Wells in the fourth and his RBI double chased Wells in a two-run sixth that tied it.
”Greatness all over,” manager Tony La Russa said. ”I don’t know how Albert does it.”
Pena hit a two-run homer in the Cubs’ four-run sixth against Kyle Lohse. Kosuke Fukudome had three hits, two of them doubles, with an RBI.
St. Louis had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth before the Cubs went to Carlos Marmol, who struck out Lance Berkman and got Tony Cruz on a flyout. Pujols, who led the National League with 38, 44 and 34 intentional walks the last three seasons, drew only his fourth this year in the ninth.
Marmol worked around a hit batsman and infield hit in the 11th and has thrown 25 1-3 consecutive scoreless innings on the road, a franchise best for Cubs relievers, according to information provided by the Cubs from the Elias Sports Bureau.
Kyle Lohse gave up a season-high 11 hits and four runs, all in the sixth to match a season worst, and failed to last at least six innings for the first time in his 12 starts this season. He’s 1-4 with a 6.51 ERA in 11 starts against the Cubs.
Pena’s two-run homer was one of three extra-base hits in the sixth that erased a 2-0 deficit, with Tony Campana and Kosuke Fukudome also driving in a run apiece.
Pujols’ RBI double cut the deficit to one and chased Wells. Berkman singled on an 0-2 count against Sean Marshall, who had held opponents to 3 for 21 with runners in scoring position, to tie it.
”The double in the sixth, I got beat with my fourth best pitch,” Wells said. ”That was not a good pitch and probably not a good decision to throw it. I left it out there and he does what he does with it.”
Like Lohse, Wells gave up four runs and lasted 5 2-3 innings, but the Cardinals needed only three hits. In two starts since coming off the 15-day disabled list from a forearm injury, Wells has allowed nine runs in 9 2-3 innings.
Wells had won his previous two starts against St. Louis, both last season, allowing one run in 15 innings.
Cardinals leadoff man Ryan Theriot singled in the sixth and walked and has hit in a career-high 18 games, also the longest active streak in the majors.
Notes: Quade said 3B Aramis Ramirez, who has missed three starts with a cut on his lip after getting struck in the face diving for a grounder, could return to the lineup Sunday. … RHP Matt Garza (elbow) is set to return from the DL on Monday and start at Cincinnati and Quade said RHP Rodrigo Lopez could start Tuesday. … 3B Matt Carpenter made the defensive stop of the game in his major league debut, diving to his right to rob Darwin Barney of a hit in the third, and doubled for his first hit in the ninth. … Attendance of 43,195 was the Cardinals’ third sellout of the season. … Theriot’s hitting streak is the Cardinals’ longest since Juan Encarnacion and So Taguchi also hit in 18 straight in 2007. He has 20 RBIs without a homer, the most since Willie McGee had 20 in 1999. … Kerry Wood gave up a double and hit a batter in a season-high two innings with two strikeouts. It was his only his second outing over one inning. … Warren Brusstar (1983) and Lee Smith (1982-83) each worked 23 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings on the road for Chicago.