A hearty welcome back to the real Albert Pujols.
The Cardinals slugging first baseman, who was mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, was 3-for-4 Monday to lead the Birds to a comeback win over the Braves.
Pujols doubled in the bottom of the eighth to put the potential winning run in scoring position and stayed there after Matt Holliday popped up to second base. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the seventh to cut the Braves' lead to 3-2, was intentionally walked to bring catcher Yadier Molina to the plate. Molina ripped a ball into the left field gap that put the Cardinals ahead. But Rasmus was sent back to third base by the home plate umpire because Molina's hit hopped over the wall for a ground rule double.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols rips a single in the fourth inning Monday against the Braves. It was one of his three hits on the night. Pujols, who was mired in one of the longest slumps of his career has hits in six of his last eight at bats to raise his batting average to .325. AP photo.
David Freese hit a grounder to second with the Atlanta infield drawn and Rasmus was cut down at the plate to prevent the Birds from getting an insurance run. But the suddenly cured closer, Ryan Franklin, pitched around a swinging bunt leadoff single to give the Cardinals the victory.
Molina not only had the game-winning hit. He also played a key role in tying the game after the Rasmus homer in the seventh. Molina singled and then -- despite the fact that he is one of the slowest runners in the National League -- stole second base. Backup catcher Bryan Anderson, who is likely to be returned to the minors tomorrow, hit a double to drive Molina home from second and knot the score at three runs with his first major league RBI.
The Braves flat out out-played the Cardinals for the first five innings of the game. And, through the first four innings, Kyle Lohse was terrible. But something clicked with both the St. Louis batters and Lohse when the fifth inning came around. Maybe Lohse just pitched better when he was tired, notching very efficient fifth and sixth innings, and Braves hurler Tim Hudson ran out of gas at about the same time.
If Hudson could have held on to his 3-0 lead for the victory, it would have been his 150th career win.
Cardinals star of the game: Pujols. Gosh if feels good to write that for the first time in a while.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Molina's go ahead double.
Lowlight: Brendan Ryan is just dying at the plate. He seems completely lost up there and I don't know what the Cardinals can do about it other than let him try to fight through it.