"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
No, those aren't the words of Reds manager Dusty Baker. That's the pessimistic assessment of Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of the result of his navy's Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor.
But if the first place Cardinals keep getting the sort of Albert Pujolsesque production from Albert Pujols that they've had the last week or so, Baker and his fellow National League central managers will certainly understand the sentiment.
After struggling to stay in the .260s for the bulk of the season, Pujols was 3-for-4 Saturday with a pair of homers and a double to lead the Cardinals past Chicago. He's 9 for his last 23 at bats (.391) with four homers, two doubles and nine batted in. Encouragingly, Pujols has finally seemed to get over his pull happiness, spraying the ball all around the field and taking what pitchers are giving him instead of trying to do too much with a less than ideal offering.
Pujols' first homer in the Saturday game against the Cubs was to right center. It gave the Birds a 2-0 lead that stood up through five innings.
St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse was excellent through the first five frames, striking out five and keeping the Wee Bears off the board. In the sixth, however, Lohse let a runner get on and then gave up a tying homer to Carlos Pena. With two outs, Lohse has a chance to get out of danger when pitcher Randy Wells came to the plate. But Wells singled to right and forced the St. Louis hurler to keep working in near 100 degree temperatures. Lohse ended up surrendering two more runs and had to be relived by Jason Motte.
In the bottom of the sixth, Ryan Theriot singled to extend his hitting streak to 18 games, the most for a Cardinals shortstop since the 1964 World Series championship season. Pujols doubled to the left centerfield gap to drive Theriot in and cut the deficit to 4-3. Then Lance Berkman came to the plate and singled Pujols home to tie the game.
The score remained knotted despite a bases loaded and one out situation for the Cardinals in the 10th. But St. Louis relievers combined for 6 1/3 innings pitched with no runs and only one hit allowed to keep things going until Pujols' 12th inning blast sent the Redbirds home with the victory.
St. Louis has managed to stay in first place into the start of June with Matt Holliday missing two stints and Pujols unable to get into a groove. I shudder to think about how much better the Cardinals will be if Pujols is finally back to being Pujols.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Pujols
Cardinals Play of the Game: Pujols' walk off homer
Lowlight: Colby Rasmus was 0-for-3 to fall to .271 in the batting average department for the season.