Now that's the ticket...
The Cardinals, who haven't hit in the clutch all season, pounded out nine two-out RBI hits Sunday against the Cubs to take the rubber game of their weekend series 9-1 and come home to face the Reds only one game out of first.
Of course, the leader of that charge was first baseman Albert Pujols. The big guy showed that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. He launched three mammoth homers, scored four runs and drove in four more. Pujols hit two balls clear out of Wrigley Field to left field. His third shot was a laser into the basket in straight away centerfield.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols hits his third homer of the day Sunday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. AP photo.
While Pujols has shown some signs of life lately, he seemed to be unconvinced. The look on his face indicated that he wasn't satisfied with the way he was swinging the bat. But his demeanor drastically changed Sunday when he hit the first homer off Ryan Dempster. On the replays, he had the expression of focused anger that a fighter gets when he realizes he has the upper hand and moves in to finish off his foe. I get the sense that Pujols finally feels locked in and that he's ready to start making pitchers pay for his month of frustration.
Matt Holliday is also coming along. He didn't display the power Pujols showed. But he was hitting the ball right back up the middle in a 4-for-5 day with a run scored and an RBI. Ryan Ludwick was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI.
On the hill, Adam Wainwright was brilliant. He improved to 7-3 with seven strong innings. He allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out eight. The only run he gave up came on a solo homer to Giavoni Soto after the game was already out of hand.
In relief, Jason Motte was dominant. He struck out one and allowed no hits or walks with a fastball that was peppered in at the knees at 97 miles an hour.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Pujols.
Cardinals Play of the Game: With the Cardinals up 1-0, Marlon Byrd singled and Alfonso Soriano doubled. Soto walked to load the bases with one out. But Wainwright kept his cool and served up a 6-4-3 double play to end the Cubs' threat... Jon Jay's second inning throw to nail Aramis Ramirez at the plate was a close second.
Lowlight: Yadier Molina was 0-for-5 to slip to .258 for the season.