Pujols, Cardinals even NLCS vs. Brewers
Leave ''Beast Mode'' to the guys on the other team. Albert Pujols was just a monster.
The St. Louis slugger had one of the biggest postseason nights of his career in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, going 4 for 5 with a home run, three doubles and five RBIs to lead the Cardinals past the Milwaukee Brewers 12-3 on Monday.
Pujols belted a two-run homer in the first, a two-run double in the third and an RBI double in the fifth, then added another double in the seventh. The crowd cheered sarcastically when the Brewers finally retired him in the eighth.
''Sometimes when they come, they come in a bunch,'' Pujols said.
His big hits came one night after Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder bashed the Brewers to a 9-6, come-from-behind victory in Game 1.
This time, the big bats couldn't bring Milwaukee back — even at Miller Park. Milwaukee was the best home team in the majors all season and the Brewers had won all four home games in the playoffs until Monday.
The Cardinals' commanding victory temporarily silenced the boisterous Brewers and their trademark ''Beast Mode'' celebration gesture.
''It wasn't joyful,'' Fielder said. ''You've just got to deal with it and move on.''
The series now shifts to St. Louis, where Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter faces Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo in Game 3 on Wednesday night.
''Our attitude was we've got to win a game to make it a series,'' St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
Pujols can become a free agent after the World Series, so a big postseason could raise his price. The three-time NL MVP was 1 for 4 in Sunday night's loss, hitting into a double play with runners on first and third in the seventh inning. A run scored on the play, but it seemed to be an indication that Pujols wasn't quite on his game. He came into Monday with only one RBI in the Cardinals' first six postseason games.
''You learn from the mistakes that you made,'' Pujols said. ''Yesterday was just so tough. Going to bed, I was just thinking about some of the opportunities I had to help our ballclub win. I turned that page, knowing today was a new day.''
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, of course, has seen such things from Pujols before.
''The last time we saw them at their place he was swinging the bat just like this,'' Roenicke said. ''You can't make mistakes to him. You have to hit spots. You have to keep it down in the zone. He doesn't miss too many mistakes.''
Rickie Weeks hit a two-run homer in the fourth for Milwaukee, then was involved in a disputed play in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Weeks grounded into a double play, though replays showed he was safe.
Weeks, who is hobbled by the lingering effects of a midseason left ankle injury, appeared to beat the throw to first base and seemed upset when he was called out.
''Big part in the game, whether he's safe or out,'' Roenicke said. ''You guys saw the replay. That was a big play.''
But it didn't matter much after the Brewers gave up four runs in a backbreaking seventh inning. Fielder homered in the eighth, well after the outcome had been decided.
Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson went 4-1/3 innings, giving up Weeks' home run. Lance Lynn got the win.
It was a short and ugly start by Milwaukee's Shaun Marcum, who gave up five runs on seven hits in four innings and took the loss. Marcum, obtained in an offseason trade with Toronto, struggled mightily in the final month of the season. After a rough outing in Game 3 of the NLDS against Arizona, his place in the Brewers' postseason rotation might come into question.
''We'll see how it goes,'' Roenicke said, adding later: ''As far as I'm concerned right now he's pitching again.''
St. Louis got started early when Jon Jay bunted for a one-out hit in the first. Pujols came to the plate and delivered what amounted to a warning shot, hitting a long fly just foul. Then he zeroed in on Marcum's offering, smacking it to left field for a home run.
Pujols stood at the plate and admired his shot for a moment, flipped his bat away and trotted around the bases.
''He's a great offensive player. He's a heads-up defensive player. He's a heads-up baserunner. This is a great baseball player,'' Roenicke said.
St. Louis added two more runs in the third. Jackson's single fell in when center fielder Nyjer Morgan got a bad break on the ball, tried to make a diving catch and then dropped it. With one out, Jay sneaked a single down the third-base line, again setting the stage for Pujols.
Pujols hammered a pitch deep to center, Morgan missed a chance at what would have been an acrobatic catch, and two runs scored to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead. Pujols pointed to the sky upon arriving at second base, then clapped his hands.
''Heck, you know at some point he's going to assert himself,'' teammate Lance Berkman said. ''Certainly tonight that was the case. He got some good pitches to hit and he crushed them.''
The Cardinals added another run in the fourth. Yadier Molina doubled, advanced on a groundout and scored when Nick Punto dribbled a single up the middle with the infield in to give St. Louis a 5-0 lead.
Milwaukee finally got to Jackson in the fourth, when Fielder led off with a double and Weeks hit a two-run shot to left to cut the Cardinals' lead to 5-2. A one-out single by Yuniesky Betancourt threatened to keep the rally going, but Jonathan Lucroy grounded into a forceout and Casey McGehee tapped back to the pitcher to end the inning.
Brewers reliever Marco Estrada took over in the fifth, but the Cardinals kept on swinging.
Jay led off with a double and Pujols laced a ball into the gap in right-center for an RBI double. Pujols advanced to third on a groundout, then scored when a ball slipped through Lucroy's legs for a wild pitch. Lucroy found the ball and made a quick throw to Estrada at the plate, but it wasn't in time.
''The bullpen didn't do so well, either,'' Roenicke said. ''We didn't pitch well today.''
NOTES: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers attended the game, getting a huge cheer from the crowd when he was shown on the stadium video board in the middle of the second inning. Rodgers has developed a friendship with Braun. ... A foul popup dropped between Pujols and Molina in the second inning, leaving them staring blankly at each other. ... Attendance was 43,937.