Pujols hits 2 HRs as Cards hold off Indians
Albert Pujols has made a habit of feasting on the American League.
Pujols, whose .355 career interleague average is the best in 13 years of play between baseball's two leagues, hit two home runs and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cleveland Indians 3-1 on Saturday.
"I just use same game plan as in the NL and if it doesn't work, then I try to figure it out," Pujols said.
After striking out in the first inning against Tomo Ohka, (0-1), Pujols adjusted quickly.
His 27th multihomer game and fourth this season helped Brad Thompson (1-2) get his first win since St. Louis' final game in 2008.
Pujols' first homer of the game was his 1,600th hit in 1,301 career games. The 396-foot line drive over the wall in left-center put St. Louis ahead 1-0 in the fourth inning.
"He's a special player," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. "He's probably the best hitter in the game right now. That's not something you say very lightly."
The slugger then hit his 22nd homer in the sixth, a 435-foot shot deep into the seats in left-center for a 2-1 lead. Pujols is hitting .529 (9 for 17) with three homers and five RBIs against Ohka. He had not faced him since 2006, when the right-hander was with Milwaukee.
"I don't go on video or what I did in the past," Pujols. "I work off my first at bat. I think about what I need to adjust."
Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said Pujols' brain is as much a factor in his interleague success as his brawn.
"It's an example of how smart he is and how much he studies," LaRussa said of the 2005 and 2008 NL MVP. "He always has a plan when he goes up there."
The reigning NL MVP also homered Friday night and is 7 for 16 with six RBIs in his last four games after breaking an 0-for-14 streak. Six of those hits have been home runs.
"I don't believe in luck, but I guess I'm getting some breaks," Pujols said. "Before that, I hit some balls hard and said, 'Wow, I can't catch a break."'
Ryan Franklin, the Cardinals' fifth pitcher, worked the ninth for his 15th save in 16 chances.
Thompson held the Indians hitless until Victor Martinez tied it at 1 with an RBI single in the fourth. Jamey Carroll reached on an error by shortstop Brendan Ryan and Mark DeRosa walked before Martinez grounded a single between first and second, scoring Carroll and sending DeRosa to third with none out.
Martinez was tagged out in a rundown after straying too far off first on a pitch in the dirt that was blocked by catcher Yadier Molina. Thompson then struck out Shin-Soo Choo and Jhonny Peralta.
"I didn't try to strike out those guys, but it happened," Thompson said. "I had a good sinker and went with it. I can throw it with confidence with Yadier back there. He's the best defensive catcher in the game."
Thompson didn't allow an earned run over six innings. He gave up three hits and two walks, striking out five.
"Brad was outstanding," LaRussa said. "He likes to compete and enjoys starting. He likes to take charge of a game from the beginning."After 10 relief outings to open the season, Thompson has started twice in place of Kyle Lohse, who went on the disabled list June 5 with a strained right forearm.
Ohka allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings in his first start since June 6, 2007, for Toronto. The 33-year-old struck out two without a walk as he worked in the rotation spot vacated by Fausto Carmona, who was sent to the Arizona Rookie League after going 2-6 with a 7.42 ERA over 12 starts.
Pujols has 30 homers and 100 RBIs in interleague play, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Both teams wore uniforms from the 1980s as part of a retro weekend promotion by the Indians. ... The 100 millionth fan to attend an interleague game entered the turnstiles at Progressive Field. The Indians presented Randy Loomis of Ashtabula, Ohio, with a prize packaged that included a trip to the 2009 All-Star game in St. Louis next month. Interleague play began in 1997.