The Cardinals say that Albert Pujols is swollen and sore after being hit on the hand near where his wrist was broken in late June. But x-rays revealed no broken bones.
Let's hope the club is right this time. Because that's the same tune they were whistling the day after Pujols' original wrist injury. Regardless, Pujols told the media after the Tuesday game that he couldn't grip the bat after he was struck and he is doubtful that he will be able to play in the all important rubber game of the three-game set.
I'm not sure if it was an intimidation move after he broke his wrist or if that's just what Milwaukee thinks is the best way to get Pujols out. But the Brewers were pitching Albert high and tight without exception in the first two games of the series. For a guy who likes to pull the ball so much these days, that seems like something of a risky move. But it's apparently working. Pujols is hitting .172 against Milwaukee this season with no homers.
While I questioned the timing of when it happened, the Cardinals and Jason Motte handled the Pujols plunking perfectly.
I would have preferred the Birds tried to retire Ryan Braun when he led off the fifth inning and instead focused their point making on the larger target that is Prince Fielder. If Braun was retired and Fielder was on first, you have a slower runner on base with two outs instead of a two-run homer waiting to happen. But manager Tony La Russa went with the old school book that says if they hit your best player, you go after their best player.
Motte threw an inside fastball with his first pitch to raise a few eyebrows (and to send the message that, just in case there was any doubt, the next pitch was no accident.) Then he hit Braun right in the middle of the back with a 97 MPH fastball. He didn't charge the plate or mouth off at Braun. But he faced the Milwaukee batter to show that he took responsibility for his actions -- and that he would protect his hitters at any cost.
I give credit to the Brewers for the stand up way they handled the situation. Fielder, who was on deck, blocked players trying to exit the Milwaukee bench from joining the fray as Braun had words with Motte and catcher Yadi Molina and later Albert Pujols. They talked it out and the game went on without any pretend fighting or macho posturing.
The Brewers play hard and they play rough. But they can take it when others play hard and rough against them. Business was taken care of by the players policing themselves and the game went on without further incident. It was a throwback to games of the 1960s and 70s. And it's a far cry from what would have happened if the same incident took place against the hot dogs from Cincinnati who seem to specialize in dishing it out but to be weak in the taking it department.