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Tag:Albert Pujols
Posted on: October 24, 2011 11:40 pm

Rangers win a wild Game 5, lead World Series 3-2

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Game 5 is where it's decided, right?

That's how it feels, when you go through four games and the World Series is tied. Game 5 is where it turns.

And that means this World Series just turned in favor of the Rangers, who beat the Cardinals in Monday night's Game 5 to take a three games to two lead.

That means it just turned in favor of Mike Napoli, whose two-run double broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning. It just turned in favor of Adrian Beltre, whose home run off Chris Carpenter tied the game in the sixth.

And it just turned in favor of Ron Washington, the Rangers manager who announced Monday afternoon that "I'm not as dumb as people think I am."

Washington's decision to break up the left-handed hitters at the bottom of his lineup got him the eighth-inning matchup of Napoli against Cardinals left-hander Marc Rzepczynski.

It got him a Game 5 win, which means everything.

Except when it doesn't.

Six of the last nine times a World Series was tied at two wins apiece, the team that lost Game 5 went on to win the title.

Overall, the numbers say just what you'd think, because 27 of 42 times that a World Series was tied 2-2 (65.9 percent), the team that won Game 5 won the title.

Whatever you think it means, the Rangers are now within one win of their first World Series title.

They got there, in part, by not letting Albert Pujols beat them in Game 5. And they did that, in large part, because Washington ordered him intentionally walked him three times.

The only other players to be intentionally walked three times in a World Series game were Barry Bonds, in Game 4 in 2002, and Rudy York, in Game 5 in 1946.

Bonds' Giants and York's Red Sox won those games.

Each of Pujols' intentional walks led to the Cardinals not scoring in the inning, in part because Matt Holliday's struggles continued. Holliday grounded into an inning-ending double play in the third, and also grounded out when Washington put Pujols on first to load the bases with two out in the fifth.

Then, in the seventh inning, Allen Craig was thrown out trying to steal, presumably after misreading a sign. Washington followed that by intentionally walking Pujols with two out and the bases empty.

Washington walked the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera with the bases empty in the American League Championship Series, in the inning that ended with Nelson Cruz's great throw to the plate.

Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:11 am

Pujols' 3 HRs make statement in Cardinals rout

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Let's get a couple of things clear about Albert Pujols.

Whether or not he likes microphones, he does like big stages. Whether or not he likes to talk, his bat makes plenty of noise.

And whether or not you believe he's a leader, you'd better believe that he's capable of leading the Cardinals (and maybe some other team, too) to a championship.

Two days after his clubhouse disappearing act after Game 2, Pujols went back to making baseballs disappear in Game 3. He reminded us what he does so well, and it's not talking.

He homered once. He homered twice. And then, just in case you didn't get the point, he homered again.

He had arguably the best offensive night in World Series history, with a World Series-record 14 total bases.

Three home runs, making Pujols just the third player ever with three homers in a World Series game (joining Babe Ruth, who did it twice, and Reggie Jackson, who did it once). Three home runs, giving Pujols' Cardinals a 16-7 win and a two games to one lead over the Rangers in this World Series.

Yes, three home runs. Any questions?

Pujols hit his first two home runs in back-to-back innings, and he became the first player in World Series history with hits in four straight innings. His sixth-inning home run turned an 8-6 Cardinals lead into 11-6, and his homer in the seventh made it 14-6.

His ninth-inning home run made it 16-7, and made it perfectly clear that this game was all about him.

As if it wasn't, already.

Pujols' first home run went off the facing of the club level high above left field. His second home run went deep into the seats in center field.

Both were estimated at greater than 400 feet, and the first would have gone much, much farther if the upper deck didn’t get in the way.

The second home run also made this the highest-scoring game in Cardinals postseason history.

And that's quite a history. This is the Cardinals' 24th trip to the postseason, and this was their 200th postseason game.

They'd never scored like this. Of course, they'd never played a postseason game in Rangers Ballpark before.

Posted on: October 21, 2011 7:14 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 7:16 pm

Fair or not, Albert just doesn't get it

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Albert Pujols says it's not fair.

I'm saying he still doesn't get it.

Not the way Michael Young does. Not the way Derek Jeter does.

Not the way Hideki Matsui does.

"I'm not trying to help the media," Matsui tells the huge contingent of Japanese reporters who he talks to before and after every game. "I'm helping the fans."

He's helping you understand what happened in the game you just watched, just as Pujols did Friday, when he finally gave the answers he should have given Thursday night.

Yes, he said, he should have caught center fielder Jon Jay's throw in the ninth inning of Game 2. Yes, he said, it was right that he was charged with an error on the play.

"It hit my glove," he said. "As soon as I saw [Ian] Kinsler take a big turn at third base, I thought I had a chance at him. I took my eyes off the ball, and I missed it. It was a good throw. I maybe make that catch 99 times out of 100."

And that's the best -- and most accurate part -- of what Pujols said Friday.

The worst part was when he claimed that he had no idea any reporters had wanted to talk to him. The worst part was when he said his only responsibilities were "with God and my family" . . . and not, apparently, with his team.

"C'mon guys, I don't think it's fair," he complained. "To rip someone's reputation for something like that, it's not fair."

To twist the truth, as Pujols did Friday, that's what is not fair.

Pujols claimed he was in lunch room after Game 2, claimed that the only reason he didn't talk to reporters was that no one told him that anyone wanted to talk to him.

I wasn't in the Cardinals clubhouse Thursday night. I didn't need to or care to talk to Albert Pujols. But I've been in the Cardinals clubhouse many times this postseason. When Pujols wants to talk, as he has on most nights, he is waiting at his locker when reporters are allowed in the clubhouse, or shortly thereafter.

He knows the deal. He knew that the ninth-inning throw that he didn't catch was a huge play in the game, which the Cardinals lost 2-1 to the Rangers.

He chose not to be there.

You can say that's his choice, and that you don't care. That's basically the Cardinals' position.

"I don't feel he did anything in the wrong," general manager John Mozeliak said.

Technically, maybe he didn't. I think he did, but if you want to say he didn't, fine.

But the reality is that there's a separate responsibility for a team's most prominent player. Young, the face of the Rangers team, understands that and is at his locker after every game.

Jeter does the same with the Yankees. Lance Berkman did the same when he played for the Astros. Heck, when I filled in covering the Detroit Pistons years ago, first Joe Dumars and then Grant Hill did it.

"For one thing, I think you guys would follow me home," Young joked Friday, when I asked him about it. "But it's just a matter of trying to be respectful."

It's being respectful to reporters, and it's being respectful to fans. It's also about being respectful to teammates.

Every question that Young or Jeter or Pujols answers is one that doesn't get thrown at his teammates. Not every player believes this is a big issue, but some of them sure do.

It's enough of an issue that when Rafael Soriano ducked out of the Yankees clubhouse after a bad game in April, Yankees president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman were on the phone next day with Scott Boras, Soriano's agent.

"He's new to this market, so, like everything else, you live and you learn," Cashman told the New York Times.

Pujols isn't in that market, and maybe it's best if he never thinks about going there. Maybe it's best that he stays in St. Louis, which is a fine but also very forgiving baseball town.

Maybe it's best that he stays with the Cardinals, a team that has never been willing to confront him about anything.

Mozeliak said he did speak with one Cardinals player Friday. He talked to Berkman, clarifying a point about whether Pujols could have been requested to go to the interview room. Berkman had gotten it wrong when he phoned a national radio show Friday morning to try to defend Pujols.

But Berkman is one who almost always gets it right. He's one who gets it.

He was the most prominent player when he was an Astro, and he accepted the responsibilities that come with it.

"That's part of being that guy," Berkman said Friday. "Different players embrace that to different levels."

Some get it, some don't.

Thursday, when he didn't talk, Albert Pujols showed he doesn't get it.

Friday, when he did talk, Pujols showed it again.

Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:48 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 8:08 pm

Holliday pinch hits, could return to Cards lineup

ST. LOUIS -- When Matt Holliday is healthy, the Cardinals may have the best 3-4-5 combination in baseball.

The Cardinals now have some hope that they'll have it again before this postseason ends.

After a favorable checkup on his troublesome finger on Monday, and an encouraging batting practice session Tuesday afternoon, Holliday pinch hit for the Cardinals in Tuesday night's Game 3, and delivered a single. Two days after the Cardinals considered replacing him on the playoff roster, there's now hope that Holliday could even return to his regular spot in the lineup.

"It feels pretty good," Holliday said before Game 3.

In that regular Cardinals lineup, Holliday hits between Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, both of whom should finish high in this year's National League MVP voting. Holliday was limited to 124 games because of various injuries, but he still hit .296 with 22 home runs and 75 RBI.

In Holliday's checkup Monday, doctors considered giving Holliday an injection, but decided against it. They also told him that the injury won't get worse if he plays with it, so that the main issues are pain-tolerance and how effective he can be.

Holliday said he still hasn't tested the finger by trying to throw, but he also said he thinks the bigger question was how much it would bother him when he hit.

The answer he gave after batting practice Tuesday is that he is again available to pinch hit. And that he could be available for even more.

Posted on: August 9, 2011 9:05 pm

Prince: 'The fighting, I'm over that'

ST. LOUIS -- Prince Fielder wants to beat the Cardinals.

He says he has no interest in fighting them.

"The fighting, I'm over that," Fielder said Tuesday.

The subject came up, because last week in Milwaukee, the Cardinals complained about pitches that they said were too high and tight to Albert Pujols, and responded by hitting Ryan Braun.

Fielder knows people wonder how he would react, because he knows people remember the scene two years ago at Dodger Stadium, when he tried to get into the Dodger clubhouse after he was hit by Guillermo Mota.

But Fielder is 27 years old now, and his Brewers are in first place in the National League Central.

"At this point, we don't need anyone getting suspended," he said.

Besides that, he said he has learned his lesson.

"Oh yeah, I definitely would have treated things a lot different [in the past]," Fielder said. "But that doesn't get you anywhere, and it makes you look like an idiot. Seeing myself on TV, I look like the dumb ass. People are going to blast you, say you need counseling and all that."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke vowed that his team will continue to pitch inside to Pujols, and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said that's fine as long as it's not up and in.

"It's the up and in pitch," La Russa said. "If we do it, I yell at our [pitchers], 'Get the ball down.' I didn't say don't pitch inside. We pitch inside."

Posted on: July 11, 2011 8:50 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 9:10 pm

Polanco asks, 'Where's Albert?'

PHOENIX -- Albert Pujols has 18 home runs and 50 RBI. Albert Pujols is widely acknowledged as the best hitter in baseball.

Albert Pujols isn't at the All-Star Game.

Huh? Seriously?

Pujols is having, by his standards, a subpar season. He was on the disabled list when the teams were picked. Then, when it came to naming All-Star replacements, National League manager Bruce Bochy decided he'd rather have a third catcher (Miguel Montero) than a great hitter.

So he's not here, even though people who know Pujols say he wanted to be picked.

"I'm not happy because I thought he deserved it," said Pujols friend Placido Polanco. "I wanted to be on the same team as him."

Pujols shocked almost everyone by coming back to the Cardinals less than three weeks after breaking a bone in his hand. He didn't shock Polanco.

"I saw him the day after he got hurt, and when he shook my hand, he was so strong," Polanco said. "I said, 'Are you sure it's fractured?'"

Polanco is in Phoenix, but he won't play in the All-Star Game because of a bulging disk in his lower back.

"I'm trying to avoid getting a shot on the spine," Polanco said. "I really don't want to get a shot."

For more All-Star coverage from, click here.

Posted on: July 9, 2011 5:44 pm
Edited on: July 9, 2011 8:46 pm

All-Star Game is losing star power

Try making a list of players who could get you to turn on the television just to watch them play.

Albert Pujols? Justin Verlander? Alex Rodriguez? Felix Hernandez? Jose Reyes? Chipper Jones? Derek Jeter?

You see what I'm getting at?

For all the debate over whether Bruce Bochy snubbed Andrew McCutchen, the real developing problem with Tuesday night's All-Star Game is that, intentionally or not, it's the game itself that is getting snubbed.

All-Star Games need star power. All-Star Games need stars.

The game's greatest stars gathering in the desert, or whatever that annoying TV promo has told us for months.

Or some of the game's greatest stars. Or a few of the game's greatest stars.

I'm not assigning fault here. I'm not suggesting that we've headed back to the 1990s, when too many stars did all they could to avoid the All-Star Game.

Pujols didn't make the team because he had a sub-par first half, got hurt and plays a position filled with other outstanding players. Verlander and Hernandez made the team but are pitching for their own teams on Sunday and thus will be ineligible to pitch on Tuesday.

A-Rod and Chipper both have bad knees and may both end up having surgery.

Ryan Braun, who got the most votes of any player in the National League, has a sore left leg and will miss the All-Star Game, too.

At least Braun's injury allowed Bochy to add the deserving McCutchen to the team, which Bochy did Saturday night.

The reasons for the absences really don't matter. The problem for baseball is that an All-Star Game that has already seen fading interest is now going to be played without so many stars who people would watch.

Mariano Rivera? CC Sabathia? Cole Hamels? Matt Cain?

It's true that Jeter's decision to pull out of the game (citing the calf injury that forced him to the DL for three weeks) allowed Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera to be the rightful American League starter at shortstop. It's true that Cabrera is having a far better season than Jeter, is far more "deserving."

But Jeter just became the 28th player with 3,000 career hits.

Who do you think the average fan is more likely to tune in and watch, Derek Jeter or Asdrubal Cabrera?

There will be great players in Phoenix. But there will be so many great players missing.

Too many.

It's no one's fault. But it is too bad.

Posted on: June 20, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 2:49 pm

The NL Central has become injury central

I'm guessing Jonny Gomes won't be dancing around or singing. I'm guessing Ryan Braun won't be, either.

But when I talked to one Reds person a few minutes after we found out that Albert Pujols will miss the next month with a broken wrist, his reaction was exactly what you'd expect.

"You hate to see anyone get hurt," he said. "But this is great news for us."

Pujols' injury is horrible news for the Cardinals, and bad news for baseball in general -- no Pujols in the All-Star Game, for one thing -- but it's great news for the Reds and for the Brewers . . . if they can stay healthy themselves.

Seriously, has any division race in baseball been as dominated by injuries this year as the National League Central?

The Cardinals have been without Adam Wainwright all year, without Matt Holliday for two tough stretches, without other lesser-known but key pieces like David Freese and Nick Punto, and now without Albert.

The Reds were without two of their five starters (Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey) for the first month of the season, and now they're without Bailey again. Key reliever Aroldis Chapman has spent the last month on the DL, as well, although his injury is much less serious than his continuing control problems. And Scott Rolen has already been on the DL once, and plays with significant enough pain that he's always a threat to go back there.

The Brewers missed Zack Greinke for the first month, and Corey Hart and Jonathan Lucroy for most of the first month. And Shaun Marcum left his last start early with a hip problem. And key reliever Takashi Saito appeared in just two games before going on the DL, where he remains.

Every year in spring training, someone reminds us that it's often not the best team that wins, but the healthiest. Every year, some very talented team doesn't make the playoffs, and injuries are one of the biggest reasons (2010 Red Sox).

But what happens when an entire division gets hurt?

We'll see this year, in the NL Central.


As it turns out, C. Trent Rosecrans of our Eye on Baseball team was in the Reds clubhouse Sunday when Pujols was hurt, and he can confirm that neither Gomes nor any of the other Reds were singing about it.

"The only thing I heard was someone talking about being upset that he was hurt," Rosecrans said.

You might remember the minor stir in spring training, when Gomes was reported to be happily singing about Wainwright's injury (a report that Gomes stridently denied).
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