ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols is such a consistent producer for the St. Louis Cardinals that his manager believes people expect too much.
Pujols homered for the third straight game and the fourth in six since the All-Star break, backing Mark Mulder in a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.
That's more than enough for Tony La Russa, even if Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs is having a better year than his star.
"You guys are spoiled to the point of irritation," La Russa told reporters. "He's hitting .330 and he's having a really solid year, getting his hits and he hasn't had his streak yet?
"Because he hasn't been to .390 yet? You've got to be a little more fair with him."
John Rodriguez hit his first major league homer for the Cardinals, who have won five of six games since the All-Star break. St. Louis improved to 7-2 against Milwaukee and 31-10 against the NL Central.
Pujols' two-run homer in the third off Ben Sheets (5-7) gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. Pujols is batting .429 (15-for-35) against Milwaukee this year with five homers and 13 RBI.
He's also 8-for-23 since the break with eight RBIs and eight runs scored, and is batting .338 with 77 RBI, second in the first category and tied for second in the other, behind Lee.
"I don't care about heating up, I care about winning," Pujols said. "It's not about me, man, it's about what I can do to help my team."
Rodriguez, who hit 17 homers in 34 games for Triple-A Memphis before coming up Monday, connected off Sheets with one out in the first. Rodriguez has started all three games since the callup after Reggie Sanders broke a leg and is 4-for-11.
J.J. Hardy homered and Rickie Weeks had two doubles for the Brewers.
Mulder (11-5) faced Milwaukee for the second time in his career and first since a shutout in 2002. He allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, and his sinker produced seven groundball outs for shortstop David Eckstein.
"That's my game, that's what I'm out there trying to do," Mulder said. "I like our defense and I'm hopefully going to make them work a lot."
Mulder is 3-0 in his last five starts, and St. Louis starters have allowed three or fewer runs in their last 13 outings.
Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for his 27th save in 30 chances. With 128 saves for the Cardinals, he moved ahead of Bruce Sutter into sole possession of third on the team career list, trailing only Lee Smith (160) and Todd Worrell (129).
"The last time they won the World Series he got the last out, so he's a pretty special person around here," Isringhausen said of Sutter's 1982 heroics. "If I do one thing while I'm here, I want to be the Cardinals' all-time save leader."
Sheets gave up three runs and five hits in six innings, losing for the first time in seven starts since June 12. He said the 2-0 pitch Pujols homered on was a "meatball."
"He hits home runs off me all the time," Sheets said. "He's got a high average off me, but I don't feel like I do any worse against him than anybody else does."
Larry Walker, a late lineup insertion after he responded to treatment for a stiff neck, struck out three times against Sheets.
Bill Hall's eighth-inning sacrifice fly off Julian Tavarez cut the gap to a run before Jim Edmonds' RBI single off Dana Eveland put the Cardinals ahead 4-2.
The Brewers were undone by a lack of clutch hitting, going 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
"With a hit here or there we could have won the game," manager Ned Yost said. "But you can say that about almost every game."
Sheets has allowed a homer in seven of his last eight starts and has given up 17 this year after allowing 25 last season. ... Walker entered the game 8-for-21 with two homers against Sheets. ... Geoff Jenkins of the Brewers singled as a pinch hitter in the ninth, extending his hitting streak to 13 games (20-for-47). ... Sheets was hitless in two at-bats and is 0-for-26 on the year.