Albert Pujols had been quiet in the first six games of the Cardinals' postseason, driving in just one run although he had had three doubles in one game in the Division Series. In Sunday night's first game of the National League Championship Series, he had hit into a double play in a key seventh-inning spot, and the Cardinals had lost 9-6 to the Milwaukee Brewers.
As history has shown us
over the last 11 years, though, Pujols can be kept down only so long. He cracked
a two-run homer in the first inning Monday off
Pujols then stroked his third double and scored his third run of the night in the seventh, this time off reliever Kameron Loe. In all, Pujols had four hits, three doubles, one homer, 10 total bases, three runs scored and five runs batted in one of the most dominant postseason performances ever as the Cardinals walloped the Brewers, 12-3.
And now even at one game
apiece, the Cardinals will have their ace, right-hander Chris Carpenter,
available to start the pivotal third game on Wednesday night in
"This game is going to raise you high and going to bring you down," said Pujols. "I've been in that situation before. Just let the game come to you.
"Yesterday was so tough. I had an opportunity to contribute, to help my ballclub. And I just thank God that today I did."
It was nothing that
manager Tony La Russa and the
"They've been watching for 11 years," La Russa said. "And he does it. Maybe not all the time, but almost all the time."
Related article at The Cardinal Nation blog: "Pujols cracks top ten MLB post-season homer, RBI lists"
1B Albert Pujols had walked only five times in 76 plate appearances against the Milwaukee Brewers this season. And he appeared anxious in Game 1 of the National League championship series on Sunday, including hitting into a double play with runners and first and third and nobody out in the seventh. "Maybe trying to do a little too much," hitting coach Mark McGwire said. "He swung at a couple pitches out of the zone, yeah. When there are guys in scoring position, I don't think they want any part of him. And you've got to be aware of that." Pujols said, "There are teams in the league that I struggle against. Did they pitch me tough this year? Of course." But, apparently not tough enough on Monday as Pujols had a homer and three doubles.
2B Nick Punto, a .364 hitter against Milwaukee RHP Shaun Marcum, got the start in Game 2 over Ryan Theriot, who was .357 lifetime against Marcum. But Theriot had had a weak first game, going 0-for-4. Punto delivered two runs with two singles and also made a good play on Brewers 3B Jerry Hairston Jr. in the fourth inning by crossing in front of the second-base bag for a bouncer.
CF Jon Jay wasn't a leadoff man, but he might as well have been. While the Cardinals' first-place hitter, SS Rafael Furcal went hitless in his first three at-bats, Jay bunted for a hit, singled again and doubled and scored three runs.
RHP Lance Lynn, who was
given the win, faced just one hitter, but it might have been the most important
spot in the game for the Cardinals.
SS Rafael Furcal had
bedeviled the Brewers since coming over from
3B David Freese, extending his postseason hitting streak to six games, cracked his second homer in two nights in the ninth, and it again was to the opposite field, right field. He has three homers in his first four postseason games this year.
BY THE NUMBERS: 10-10 - Cardinals'
record this year against
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Two months ago, everybody was making vacation plans and thinking we were out."
- 1B Albert Pujols, on the Cardinals' comeback from 10 1/2 games out of the wild-card spot in late August.
2B/OF Skip Schumaker (right oblique) was injured in Oct. 7's NLDS Game 5. He was left off the NLCS roster.
LF Matt Holliday (strained tendon in right palm) re-injured his hand Sept. 27 and left the game, and he didn't play Sept. 28. He didn't start the opener of the NL Division Series, but he appeared as a pinch hitter. However, he felt more pain during the at-bat and was limited to pinch-hitting until he started again in Game 4 of the Division Series on Oct. 5. He was back in the lineup for Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS.
RHP Adam Wainwright
(Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25.
He will miss the entire 2011 season. Wainwright threw a side session on Monday,
October 10 in
Tue., October 11: No game
Wed., October 12: vs. BREWERS: Chris Carpenter vs. Yovani Gallardo, 7:05 P.M. CDT (TBS, ESPN Radio, KMOX).
VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
Jon Jay, Nick Punto and Edwin Jackson share thoughts following the exciting 12-3 victory Monday.
Albert Pujols' performance contributed to the 12-3 win against Milwaukee in Game 2 of the NLCS. The first baseman and his manager comment.
Tony La Russa's full post-game comments (from MLB and ASAP Sports)
Q. You've seen Albert do a lot of things in his career, but where does this rank tonight? This was pretty incredible?
TONY La RUSSA: Yeah. Well, it's one great thing, our fans are so attentive and knowledgeable, they've been watching for 11 years. And he does it. Maybe not all the time, but almost all the time. His hitting is the most obvious thing, but his defense, his base runs. If you watched his batting practice today, Mark and Mike were commenting and I paid attention, he was fine tuning his stroke. 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.
Q. How much does he take it personally, where he had a situation yesterday where he could have come through and hit a double play, he comes back the next day and has a big game?
TONY La RUSSA: You probably made a key point. He takes it personally. That's why he hasn't changed, no matter his success or how much money he makes. I think he has a very strong responsibility system. He's responsible for himself, his family. He's got a very strong faith, so he's not going to let any of those people down. Excuse me, I said "people," but all those things, whatever.
Q. When you have a performance like that, there are other guys that have good nights, too. What does that do to the team, the dugout is going crazy, I guess just translates to everyone on the bench?
TONY La RUSSA: When your big guys play big, I mean that's I always heard that so much in basketball, because that's where everybody else is on their coattails, but when your big guys, just like their guys yesterday, three and four hitters, I mean, that just gets everybody excited and everybody just contributes rather than having to carry it. But we got -- it's one of our strengths. You have 3, 4, 5 in the middle. They're all legitimate producers, and it gets you excited when they get going.
Q. What about Jay specifically, him setting the table a couple of times?
TONY La RUSSA: One of the key things. I mean, you get guys on base enough for the guys in the middle and we're going to score some runs. Jay had -- he had every bit as good a day as Albert did.
Q. It's been Pujols, Braun and Fielder having most of the production in the first two games.
TONY La RUSSA: Well, they're there's nobody in the game more dangerous than those three guys. But we had a lot more like I say, Jay, Matt came through with a big hit. David Freese had another big game. We played well defensively. But the guys play big. And their two guys in the middle, they did a lot of damage today, too.
Q. You've still got a lot of work to do, but your state of mind as you go back to St. Louis, you knew you were going to have to win one game in the series, how satisfying is it to go home 1 1?
TONY La RUSSA: Realistically, our attitude was it's not as bad as if it's a five game series, like we were facing in Philadelphia, especially when they have the home field advantage at the end. I just our attitude was we've got to win a game to make it a series. We want to make it a series and be competitive. Our attitude is so simple. We don't get bogged down with distracting thoughts. Play hard, compete, the reality is if you want to make it a competitive series, winning a game here, that's a big step in the right direction.
Q. There were a lot of runs scored today. I'm curious, what did you think was the key point in the game, what was one of those turning places?
TONY La RUSSA: We had some really good at bats on pitches where they had like we did yesterday, got the ball in the middle of the plate. We also had some balls that were mishit that found holes. Dave and I were talking about that thing, it's a misleading score, because the game was very scary up until that four extra runs. It was a scary game because they've got so much potential there. And the combination of we were taking some relentless at bats, they made some mistakes, and we also mishit some balls and got a couple of breaks.
Q. I think you referred to the "happy flight" phrase. [Inaudible] this is 15 in a row now that you have both gotten on a plane. I think August 3rd was the last time this happened. Can anything be said for guys staying focused with a getaway flight coming?
TONY La RUSSA: It's a neat kind of reminder, let's finish off whatever it is, whether we're finishing off a game at home or on the road. We've won games on days we weren't traveling, either. But it's just -- you've got these grown men and they're like, I don't even think fraternity, they're too old. They're like summer campers or teenagers, or maybe preteens. They're just like kids. And it's enjoyable to listen to "happy flight" things. Our fans were yelling when we got in the dugout, have a happy flight. It's silly, but why not?
Albert Pujols and Jon Jay full post-game comments
Q. Albert, obviously you guys down in a 1 0 hole. You seemed very demonstrative, very kind of emotionally into this game. Was this something you were particularly charged up for this one?
ALBERT PUJOLS: I'm in every game. I don't take this game for granted. Yesterday was a tough loss. And I was I had an opportunity to contribute, to help my ballgame. And I just thank God that today I did. This game is not easy. This game is going to raise you high and going to bring you down. The things you need to do myself as a player, I've been in that situation before, is just let the game come to you. And the guys got on base for me, and I'm glad I contributed to help out to win.
Q. Albert, you indicated last night that you might make some adjustments. What did you do differently?
ALBERT PUJOLS: That's a secret. I can't tell you. See the ball and hit it, that's what I did. I was able to get some good pitches in the strike zone and made sure I didn't chase any bad pitch like I did yesterday. I put my best swings tonight.
Q. Albert, you have had a lot of your games in your career, I know you only had a few minutes to take this one in, where does it rank in terms of all your performances?
ALBERT PUJOLS: Just another game. I'm just glad I was able to help this ballclub to win. Go back home knowing there is a long series. Hopefully we can swing the bat the way we did, from the top of the lineup all the way to the bottom of the lineup the next couple of games and see where we're at.
Q. Jon, in this series you got to move back in front of Albert in the No. 2 spot, what do you think about that spot and what makes you comfortable there?
JON JAY: I've been there all year. When I got the big boys behind me my job is simple. Just get on base. I was able to do that today. If I can get on base it gives them the opportunity to do what they do, which is drive in runs. It all kind of worked out for us today, it was good to get that going.
Q. What were you thinking, you got that bunt hit, that absolutely started you guys off tonight, and Albert hit the big home run?
JON JAY: I look at every situation to see what I can do to get on base. That was an opportunity for me to bunt. And I got it down and the rest everything else happened. And it was a great start to the game. We played hard the whole game and we finished the game today.
Q. Both of the Brewers' starting pitchers have struggled in the playoffs. Do you see that as something you can exploit in this series?
ALBERT PUJOLS: You can't look at it like that. Marcum is really a competitive pitcher. He's pitched well during the regular season against us. This is the postseason, we play every game like there's no tomorrow, no matter who we're facing. We have a great plan. We have a great hitting coach, great assistant here Coach Andretti, pretty much go with the scouting report and give you how guys are going to work. We just go out there and execute. We don't look who we are going to face. We just need to make our adjustment and take our game plan out there. Because just the same way, it can be opposite. He can go out and throw you a strong inning like he has against us this year during the season.
JON JAY: Every game, we're playing out there like it's our last game. It's the playoffs, everyone knows what's at stake. We play hard every game, and today we came up with the win.
Q. Marcum has pitched very well against the Cardinals. Have you seen him enough to know what he is doing?
ALBERT PUJOLS: As a hitter, as a ballclub, that's our job, to make an adjustment. Obviously that's what we did. And I can't share with you guys the secret of what we go through in our meetings, what we talk, that's pretty much our own business. But we were able to execute. He left a couple of balls up and we took advantage, and just got part of that, just like everybody else on the team.
Q. Obviously Albert is trying to not get too high or too low. When you see a performance like that, what are the emotions like that and what is your reaction?
JON JAY: It's great as a team. Everyone knows how good Albert is, and we've seen him do it before. It's great. We all know, like you say, you've got to ride the highs and the lows, and this is the playoffs, and we've got to show up the next game and take care of business again.
Q. Jon, more specifically for you as a younger player, knowing how good Milwaukee has been all season at home, how much does it mean to you to steal home advantage going back to St. Louis?
JON JAY: That was big to us. We're 1 1, that was big to win, just because they've done well here. But it was big for us to fight back and get a win after yesterday's game.
Q. We focus on the guys that hit behind you as protection. I'm wondering if you have a guy on in front of you, if those guys are on base, what that does for other teams in their approach to you?
ALBERT PUJOLS: You know what, I think I touched this before in the past, you know, I don't look who's in front of me and who's behind me. I take my game plan out there and try to make an adjustment during the game, during our at bat -- just because I've got great hitters like Lance and Matt behind me, that doesn't mean they're going to come and throw me a pitch down the middle. They're going to make me work. It's my job to be ready for those mistakes, and hopefully take advantage. That's pretty much how I've been. I'm blessed to have great hitters behind me my whole career. I can go from 2001 all the way to this year.
And I think part of that is you need to make sure that you don't expand the strike zone, which I believe I have this year, a lot early in the year. And I finally just took a deep breath and started looking for my pitch and had a great second half. And it's going to be like this during the postseason, too.
Q. Albert, the importance of getting that double play in the 5th inning, and getting that pitch to keep momentum tonight?
ALBERT PUJOLS: That was a great pitch. That was an inning right there that it could have gone both ways, I think. Rickie is a great hitter. And Lance just made a great pitch and we got out of that inning. If they can score in there, obviously the game could have changed. It was a good pitch, a good great turn by Nick and Furky [Furcal], and we were able to get out of that inning with no runs.
Q. Even though you hit .350 in the last series, you go a week to ten days without a run. Do you feel yourself getting hungry for a home run?
ALBERT PUJOLS: Never. I let you hit out there, take ten pitches, and sometimes you don't get any. This game is so hard. When they come, they come in bunch. And when you struggle with that, you know, I think my main job is to try to get a good pitch to hit. I know that God has blessed me with great talent to hit the ball from corner to corner. I don't have to pull the ball to hit a homer, I can just go all the way and just hit it out. I just look for a good pitch to hit.
And you know what, when you get your base hit, you don't look like you're struggling. When you don't get the hits and you're looking for the home run, and you think 0 for 10 and now if I get a home run, and I'm 1 for 11 ... No, I don't think about that, I think about getting my hits, and once in a while when you're getting your hits you're going to put one out of the ballpark. And sometimes when they come, they come in a bunch.
Q. Albert, you've been here before. Jon, this is your first go around. What's the message on combining, doing the business, keeping everything serious to go out and win, but at the same time being able to appreciate and enjoy?
ALBERT PUJOLS: Well, you know, being hungry all the time. I mean, it's been amazing where we're at. Two months ago everybody was making vacation plans and thinking that we were out. And we had 35 games left and we just told ourself, let's see how many games we can win. And we had ten and a half or nine and a half, and all of a sudden we play Atlanta and we were four and a half games. It was like, wow, we had a pretty good chance. And it's just been great. You never know you have to enjoy every game, every postseason, because it might be your last one. I've been blessed to be in so many, and having a World Series ring so young in my career. And I'm just hungry all the time, every day, because you can't take this game for granted, that's for sure.
JON JAY: Well, for myself, I have all these veterans to lean on and they tell us take advantage of every opportunity you have. And for myself, even the off season when I'm working out, I'm not just saying hey, I want to have a good season. I want to get to the postseason. I remember watching Albert in '06 in the World Series, I want to be in those moments. Those are the goals that I have. My goals aren't hey, let's play the season, see what happens. I want to win. I want to be known as a winning player, and those are some of the things that drive me.
Q. Albert, before the game today Tony said he felt like you were going to have a big game. I know he doesn't generally say things like that. Was there anything in particular you think that either you said to him or he saw from you that gave him that idea?
ALBERT PUJOLS: Somebody asked me that question earlier in the locker room. You know, he didn't come to me and tell me. Hopefully he can say that again. Knowing Tony, he might say that again on Wednesday, he's so superstitious. But just you learn from the mistakes that you make. And yesterday was so tough, going to bed I was just thinking some of the opportunity that I could help our ballclub to win.
But I turned that page. And today was a new page. And what can I do to help my ballclub to win the game today. And I'm just blessed to be part of the guys in the team that did a lot of damage today and win the game and go home with a 1 1 series. Like Jon Jay said, it's tough to play the guys here. They have the record for a reason. It's not easy to pitch the lineup over there. Jackson did a great job. Our bullpen once again was huge. And we're just glad that we evened out the series.