Performer of the game: Pujols
Slugger sets franchise records while lifting Cards to victory
MILWAUKEE -- Forget any past struggles Albert Pujols may have had against the Brewers this year.
The St. Louis slugger made a thunderous statement on Monday night, and he did so in record-setting style.
Pujols went 4-for-5 with a homer, three doubles and five RBIs in the Cardinals' 12-3 victory over the Brewers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park.
In convincing fashion, the standout first baseman rebounded from a disappointing 1-for-4 performance with a critical double play on Sunday in a 9-6 loss in Game 1.
Spin to Win
As impressive as he was, Pujols said he didn't have any added motivation or adrenaline going in his favor.
"I'm in every game," Pujols said. "I don't take this game for granted. Yesterday was a tough loss. And I had an opportunity to contribute, to help my ballclub.
"This game is not easy. This game is going to raise you high and it's going to bring you down. I've been in that situation before. Just let the game come to you. The guys got on base for me, and I'm glad I contributed."
Short-term struggles against Milwaukee didn't cause Pujols to lose sight of the bigger picture.
After Sunday, he pointed out it was one game in one season.
"That happens every once in a while," Pujols said. "What about my whole career? I've hit Milwaukee."
Cardinals Postseason Homers
By the time the final out was recorded, Pujols became the franchise playoff leader in home runs (14), RBIs (42) and doubles (16).
Four times in Cardinals' history a player has doubled three times. Pujols has done it twice -- both this year. His other was on Oct. 4 against the Phillies.
And his five RBIs are second most by a Cardinals player in a postseason game, one shy of Reggie Sanders' six against the Padres on Oct. 4, 2005.
Still, there was more.
In his seventh postseason, Pujols has nine League Championship Series homers, which ties him with George Brett and Bernie Williams for second most. Manny Ramirez posted 13.
Cardinals Postseason RBIs
"Any game, he can explode," catcher Yadier Molina said. "He's the best player in the game. You count on that all the time."
It didn't take long in Game 2 for Pujols to show why doubters shouldn't look at small sample sizes.
In the first inning, Pujols belted a two-run homer off Brewers starter Shaun Marcum. The slugger provided a two-run double in the third inning, added an RBI double in the fifth and led off the seventh with a third double.
Pujols crushed a 1-2 Marcum offering in the first-inning shot, giving him 14 in the playoffs. Jim Edmonds had 13. The no-doubt blast also was Pujols' first postseason homer since the 2006 World Series.
The Cardinals have scored in the first inning in five of their seven playoff games, including four in a row.
In the third inning, Pujols laced a liner just over Nyjer Morgan's head in deep center field for a double. With four RBIs in his first two at-bats, Pujols had 41 postseason RBIs to tie Edmonds for the franchise record. The All-Star first baseman also set a franchise record with 22 LCS RBIs, passing Edmonds, who had 20. The RBI double in the fifth gave Pujols sole possession of the franchise postseason RBI record.
Manager Tony La Russa noticed Pujols getting locked in during batting practice.
"He was fine-tuning his stroke," La Russa said. "He really wasn't trying to hit the ball out of the park. He was just thinking about how he could have better at-bats. He's such a pro, so smart."
The breakout game put to rest any doubts that the Brewers had figured out how to silence the slugger.
In 18 regular-season games against the Brewers this season, Pujols had a .250 batting average (17-for-68) with four homers and 12 RBIs.
The tale over his entire career is dramatically different.
During the regular season, the power-hitting first baseman is a .329 lifetime hitter against the Brewers, with 42 homers and 140 RBIs in 174 games.
Before Game 2, La Russa cautioned against writing off Pujols making an impact in the series. In fact, the manager basically predicted a big night from his first baseman.
"I think he could be the hitting star [Monday] and nobody should be surprised," La Russa said.
"If you get that from our eight-hitter, then we can [be shocked]," Lance Berkman said. "He's been doing it his whole career, and he did it again tonight. He's a great player. Probably one of the greatest ever.
"It's not that I'm underwhelmed by it, it's a great performance. But it's Albert Pujols we're talking about."
Praises were heaped on Pujols all night.
"I've seen Albert like this before," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I've seen him in years past like this. 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."