It just took some daytime ball for Albert Pujols to become Albert Pujols again. Pujols, who holds the highest daytime batting average in the National League at .500 (14 for 28), smacked his seventh homer and two singles Sunday. Pujols had dipped to an uncharacteristic .275 before the game and had been one for his last 14.
"When he makes outs, he has a good idea of what he should have done," said manager Tony La Russa. "He had a better day, plus it was a day game and he could see better."
But this game, as have many in the first three weeks of the Cardinals' season, was about pitching. Right-hander Brad Penny, maybe the best one-year, free-agent signing in the off-season, pitched his fourth consecutive strong game.
Traversing at least seven innings for the fourth straight time, Penny went 7 2/3 before getting relief from right-handers Jason Motte and Ryan Franklin as the Cardinals avoided a three-game sweep. In 14 of the Cardinals' first 18 games, the starters have allowed two earned runs or fewer, including in all of Penny's four starts.
The former Giant was under control.
"I didn't throw a pitch as hard as I could all day," said Penny. "That's the first time in my career that's happened. They were being aggressive and they didn't let me get deep into counts. The key for me was mixing it up."
Counting his time with the Giants last season when he finished up 4-1 after being let go by Boston, Penny, his shoulder now fully healed after surgery of a couple of years ago, has lasted seven or more innings in nine of his last 10 starts.
CARDINALS 2, GIANTS 0: The Cardinals scored only three runs in this series, but they escaped with one win when 1B Albert Pujols hit a solo homer in the first and C Yadier Molina contributed a sacrifice fly in the fourth. RHP Brad Penny didn't walk a batter and fanned two in 7 2/3 innings.
--CF Colby Rasmus, 10 for his last 21, had two hits.
--RHP Brad Penny, who starred for
the Giants last September, said the size of
--When San Francisco RHP Tim Lincecum beat the Cardinals for the fifth straight time on Friday, it marked the first time in almost 40 years that a pitcher had beaten the Cardinals in his first five starts against them. Former Cincinnati LHP Ross Grimsley beat the Cardinals in his first six starts from 1971-73.
--LF Matt Holiday is just 3-for-22 with men in scoring position, and one of those hits was an infield hit that did not score a run. He seems more impatient at bat than usual.
--For those who fretted over the start of RHP Ryan Franklin, the Cardinals' veteran closer posted his sixth save in six opportunities with a scoreless ninth.
BY THE NUMBERS: 15 -- Home run differential (24-9) for the Cardinals after three weeks of the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was
unbelievable. You're talking to a lot of people who seem perfectly normal but
who obviously have done some really bad things." -- 2B Skip Schumaker, after
visiting San Quentin State Prison near
--INF Felipe Lopez (sore right elbow) didn't start April 21-23 because of some lingering soreness from an injury he suffered about 10 days before. He pinch-hit April 23, then started April 24 but didn't play April 25.
--C Jason LaRue (strained right hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 12. He might return in late April.