When Albert Pujols is hot, opposing pitchers take cover and bleacher bums in the outfield are at the ready with their gloves. The two-time MVP hit four more home runs and now leads the majors in both home runs (26) and RBI (68).
Another round of interleague play continued for St. Louis this past week, and it did the Cardinals good, as they used it to fix some kinks in the proverbial machine.
When Chris Carpenter pitches, many Cardinal fans simply assume a Redbird victory will ensue. On Sunday night, Indians pitcher Cliff Lee made sure no such thing would happen, blanking the Cardinals. Carpenter gave up two home runs, taking his first loss of the season 3-0.
The Monday off day must have been just what the doctor ordered, because when the Cardinals opened the series against Detroit at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, they teed off on Tiger pitching, winning 11-2 behind a solid start from Adam Wainwright.
After another clinching the series win against the Tigers in a 4-3 win, The Cardinals stumbled in the series finale, dropping the game 6-3.
Part of the offensive surge has been due to Colby Rasmus and his increased production. During the past week, his batting average reached a high of .285 before settling at the current .274 mark, which is a far cry from earlier this season when he was barely above the Mendoza line.
A second piece to the puzzle is Yadier Molina, who leads all NL catchers in All-Star voting. Though never known for his offense, he has raised his average 20points to .284 since the start of the Detroit series. Included in that is his fifth home run of the season, off Edwin Jackson in the 4-3 win on Wednesday.
As the Redbirds traveled across the state to Kansas City, fans were eagerly awaiting the resurgence of two more players, Ryan Ludwick and Khalil Greene. Ludwick was productive before injury, and has had timing issues since coming off the disabled list. Greene had largely struggled and spent time on the DL with social anxiety disorder.
Ryan Ludwick may have turned the corner with a single swing of the bat on Friday night. In the midst of a six-run third inning, Ludwick hit a grand slam off Royals pitcher Kyle Davies, his 10th home run of the season. Greene added a home run of his own, his third of the season, as the Cardinals routed their interstate rivals, 10-5.
Brad Thompson wasn't spectacular, but he didn't need to be in his role filling in for injured starter Kyle Lohse. He turned in another solid, steady start, pitching seven innings and allowing four runs.
Chris Carpenter took out his frustration from Sunday's loss on the hapless Royals, allowing just a single run on three hits in seven-and-two-thirds innings. Pujols added his 24th home run of the year and Greene added his second round-tripper in as many days as the Cardinals took sole possession of first place in a 7-1 win.
Albert Pujols spent Sunday playing home run derby, hitting his 25th and 26th home runs while driving in six runs. Pujols left his mark on the newly renovated Kauffman Stadium, as his fourth inning grand slam hit off the Royals' hall of fame, leaving a dent on the outside of the building.
The DH for the day, the triple-crown threat had four hits in five at-bats, as the Cardinals finished off a sweep of the Royals, 12-5.
Sunday's win also gave manager Tony La Russa 2,500 career wins, third all-time behind Connie Mack and John McGraw.
The Cardinals' offense has awakened, especially Khalil Greene, who added his third home run in as many days playing his first ever games at third base in Kansas City. After homering Sunday, Greene was plunked on the knee and left the game, though his injury is unknown.
Ryan Ludwick insists he is getting closer and closer to regaining the timing he had before his injury that made him so dangerous, and other players are on a hot streak.