Cardinals-Astros: Pujols Goes Grand in Quest For Third MVP

Derek CoffeltSenior Analyst IApril 11, 2009

On Saturday afternoon, Albert Pujols showed exactly why he is thought of as one of the most dangerous hitters on the planet.

Pujols lead the way in an 11-2 blowout over the Houston Astros finishing the contest with a career-high seven RBI. His day was highlighted with a towering grand slam in the fifth inning against revered ace Roy Oswalt.

The silver slugger added a three-run round-tripper in the seventh for good measure.

If any doubt remained about Pujols' talent, it should have been laid to rest after the hitting clinic he displayed. It was his 24th major league multi-homer game. He is one of, if not the best, hitters in the game.

Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright couldn't agree more.

"I am just blown away by that guy," Wainwright said. "I think he's the best hitter of all time. I think there's never been a better hitter than him. I know I didn't see them all, but I just don't think there could be. I just think he's the best."

The praise did not end there as Astros’ first baseman Lance Berkman took stock of the reigning NL MVP.

"He's the best hitter in the game, and he continues to do things like that that are amazing," Berkman said. "It really doesn't surprise me. I don't think anything he did would surprise me. If he homered in 10 straight at-bats, it wouldn't surprise me. He's that good."

His teammates know it and now the rest of the league needs to take notice that Pujols and the Cardinals are running on all cylinders out of the starting gate.

I know. The season isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. However, marathons have their ups and downs and Pujols doesn't intend on letting up anytime soon. He's been predicted to win the triple crown which will almost certainly lock up his third MVP trophy.

With offensive performances like today, Pujols could very well accomplish that feat.

Roy Oswalt intended to intentionally walk Pujols even though it would have brought home a run with the bases loaded. Perhaps he should have taken that route because his thigh-high 93-mph fastball traveled to the next area code. 

Oswalt's pitch was a hard one to hit even if a batter knew it was coming. However, Albert Pujols is not your normal batter.

Even Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa knew of the general outcome of a pitch like that.

"It's a ball that nine times out of 10 is a ground ball to short or third for a double play, or maybe it sneaks through," La Russa said. "The way (Pujols) keeps his hands inside—it's amazing."

Despite the monstrous, 431-foot blast against Oswalt, Pujols spoke highly of the veteran pitcher.

"The guy's a competitor," Pujols said. "He's one of the best pitchers in the game. I think you need to go out there and be prepared, and hopefully he makes a mistake and you'll be ready and take advantage."

Oswalt has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the game to stay competitive at this high level. That's why Pujols' grand slam is so impressive.

Aside from the fireworks on the offensive end for the Redbirds, starter Adam Wainwright fought for his first win of the season. Despite only lasting five innings and walking three batters, he pitched a quiet, but effective, game while not giving up a run.

The bullpen started out great with Jason Motte and Dennys Reyes pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings. The only offense mustered by the Astros was against veteran Brad Thompson who allowed two earned runs in the ninth.

It was a great win for the Cardinals, but their bullpen still showed signs of cracks in its armor. If La Russa can find ways to stop the bleeding in the late innings, the Redbirds could look to do some serious damage against the rest of the league.


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