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On This Date in Cardinals History: April 28, 2006

Five years ago today Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols tied the record for most homers in April when he clouted his 13th of the season in a 8-3 loss to the Nationals at Busch Stadium.

The shot went over the left field boards in the eighth inning off Washington reliever Felix Rodriguez.

Pujols would break the record the next day when he smacked an eighth inning homer off Nats closer Jon Rausch to deal the deciding blow in a 2-1 win over Washington.

Albert finished the season with a .331 batting average, 47 homers and 137 RBIs and, while the Cardinals managed only 83 wins, it's all history how they got hot in October and won their 10th World Series title.

On a side note, some people to the north of St. Louis who haven't seen a World Series trophy since 1908 like to claim that the Birds' 83 wins are the least in history for a team that won the fall classic. Well, like so many other things they claim, it just ain't true.

The Cardinals had 20 more wins than the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers who took the title in a strike-shortened season. And, before the folks in blue (Cubs or Dodgers, blue, that is) start screaming that LA deserves an asterisk because of the short season, remember that the real asterisk belongs on the National League East standings that year.

Whitey Herzog's Redbirds had the best record with 59 wins. But it was decided that the winner of the first half of the strike-interrupted season would play the winner of the second half -- an unprecidented move -- instead of declaring the team with the best total record at the end of the year the division winner.

St. Louis was second to the Phillies in the first half -- which was a riculous measure because Philadelphia played five more games than the Cardinals to finish at 34-21 to St. Louis' 30-20. In the second half, the Cardinals finished second to Montreal -- by half a game -- and they played one less than the Expos.

If the Cardinals played the same amount of games as their competition, it's possible that they could have won both half season titles. But that shouldn't have mattered because the Cardinals had the best overall record.

It was the worst measure of a division champion in the history of baseball and the Cardinals got the short end of the stick in any way possible. And it just goes to show that when you mess with the playoff format, bad things happen.

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