Pujols Goes 4-5 As Cardinals Complete Sweep of Dodgers

Christopher Cornell
St. Louis, MO, July 17 (AHN) – A week before the All-Star break, it looked like the Cardinals were in serious trouble. The team hadn’t won a series in nearly a month, their pitching was falling apart, they weren’t hitting and their lead in the NL Central was dwindling. St. Louis used the All-Star break to recharge their batteries and get back to their winning ways. With Sunday’s 11-3 thumping of the Dodgers, the Cardinals completed a four game sweep of L.A. and won their seventh straight game overall.

St. Louis got big offensive days from a trio of players, and as usual, Albert Pujols led the charge. Pujols was 4-5 with two doubles, two runs scored and three RBI. He brought his RBI total up to 82, good enough for third in the Majors. The right-handed slugger has at least one RBI in each of his last six home games at Busch Stadium. Over that same time frame, Pujols is 16-29 for a .552 batting average with five doubles, three homers and 11 RBI.

Outfielder Chris Duncan, son of pitching coach Dave Duncan, went 3-4 with three runs scored. And catcher Yadier Molina broke out of a season-long funk with three hits and three RBI.

Duncan told the AP he knows that pitchers have to give him something to hit with Pujols coming right after him.

"I pretty much know they’re not going to walk me, so I just try to be aggressive, and when they fall behind I usually get a pitch to hit," Duncan said. "To be able to get some hits and have Albert drive me in is a lot of fun."

The Cardinals finished up a horrific June at 9-16. They’ve turned it around in July, going 9-4 and they’ve won their last two series. The Cardinals took three of four in Houston right before the All-Star break, then they swept a four-game series from the Dodgers for the first time since winning a pair of doubleheaders on July 7-8, 1987.

Starting pitching has been a big catalyst behind St. Louis’ recent resurgence. During their seven game win streak, the Cardinals’ starters are 7-0 with a 2.89 ERA, and each has lasted an average of 7.1 innings per start.

St. Louis manager, Tony La Russa, told the AP the key to their turnaround was staying positive in the clubhouse.

"We really had to grind through and make sure we stayed together and not point fingers and keep our energy up, and we did a good job of that," manager Tony La Russa said. "But this is more fun."

Cardinals rookie starter, Anthony Reyes, out-worked the NL All-Star game starter, Brad Penny. Reyes picked up his second win of the season by giving up just two earned runs over five innings while striking out five. The Cardinals touched up Penny for six runs on 10 hist over five innings.

Pujols’ RBI ground-rule double in the first inning kicked the scoring off and put the Cardinals up 1-0. Olmedo Saenz homered and Russell Martin grounded out for an RBI to give the Dodgers their only lead in the second inning at 2-1. Pujols tied the game in the third with RBI single and Edmonds gave the Cardinals the lead at 3-2 with an RBI ground-out. St. Louis would pull away with three runs in the fifth and three more in the seventh. John Rodriguez added insult to injury with a two-run homer in the eighth off of disgruntled reliever, Odalis Perez.