Pujols hits 3 HRs in Cardinals’ rout
ARLINGTON, Texas - Albert Pujols, the best player in baseball for virtually his entire career, had not performed well in the World Series prior to Game 3 against the Texas Rangers last night.
In 11 previous World Series games, the St. Louis Cardinals star had one home run and two runs batted in while hitting .222.
“That was never going to last,’’ Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter said. “Albert is too good. He’s one of a kind.’’
Pujols emphatically made that point last night with a historic performance, hitting three home runs and driving in six runs as the Cardinals beat the Rangers, 16-7.
“It was the kind of a day they’ll never forget. That’s what he did,’’ Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “It was the latest example of how great he is. Has somebody had a better day than this ever in the World Series?’’
In a word: no.
Pujols joined Yankees’ Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (1926, 1928) and Reggie Jackson (1977) as the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series game. His five hits tied Milwaukee’s Paul Molitor (1982) for the most in a World Series game.
His six RBIs also matched a single-game Series record held by Bobby Richardson (1960) and Hideki Matsui (2009) of the Yankees. The 14 total bases were a Series record.
“He’s a better hitter than Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson and there’s no doubt about it,’’ St. Louis designated hitter Lance Berkman said. “I’m dead serious. Babe Ruth, as great as he was, played in an all-white league. Now we have the best talent pool we’ve ever had and he’s doing it in that environment. He’s the greatest.’’
Pujols had a three-run homer in the sixth inning, a two-run shot in the seventh, and a solo blast in the ninth inning. After grounding out in his first at-bat, he had five consecutive hits, two singles followed by three home runs.
“I didn’t walk into the ballpark today thinking that I was going to have a night like this,’’ Pujols said. “I walked into the ballpark with the attitude that I have every day, to help this ballclub to win. I’m just blessed that I was able to do that.’’
St. Louis leads the Series two games to one and will start Edwin Jackson tonight against the Rangers’ Derek Holland.
The 16 runs were the most allowed by Texas this season. St. Louis had 15 hits, seven for extra bases. Yadier Molina doubled twice and drove in four runs.
The Cardinals led, 1-0, after three innings. By the end of the fifth inning, it was 8-6 and both starters were finished.
The last time teams combined for 14 runs through five innings in a World Series game came in 2007, when the Red Sox took a 13-1 lead in Game 1 against the Rockies.
“That’s what happens in this park,’’ Carpenter said. “Once guys started hitting, they didn’t stop. But we had Albert and they didn’t.’’
The Cardinals scored four runs in the fourth inning thanks to shaky defense by the Rangers and a blown call by an umpire.
The Rangers, down 5-0, got to Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse in the fourth inning. Michael Young homered to right field. Adrian Beltre (4 for 5) singled to left and Nelson Cruz homered to right. For Cruz it was his seventh home run of the postseason to go with 15 RBIs.
Led by Pujols, the Cardinals put the game out of reach. His first home run, off Alexi Ogando, was a 423-foot drive off the facing of the second deck.
It was the start of a night, as La Russa said, that nobody will forget.
“Hopefully at the end of my career I can look back and say, ‘Wow, what a game it was in Game 3 in 2011,’ ’’ Pujols said. “But as of right now, it’s great to get this win and just move on.’’