October 10, 2011: Pujols drives in five as Cardinals even the NLCS

Game 1 of the 2011 NLCS had been a tough one for Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals. After jumping out to a 5-2 lead, the Cardinals allowed a pair of two-run home runs in the fifth inning of what turned into a 9-6 Brewers win.

Most frustrating for Pujols was his at-bat in the seventh inning with the Cardinals trailing 8-5. With runners on first and third and no one out, Pujols bounced into a 5-4-3 double play that scored leadoff man Rafael Furcal but also effectively killed the chance at a rally.

“Going to bed I was just thinking of so many opportunities I had to help the team win,” Pujols said. “I turned the page. I thought what could I do to help the team win. I turned the page. I thought what could I do to help the team win today.”[1]

Prior to Game 2, Pujols had been relatively quiet through the Cardinals’ Division Series win over the Phillies and the opening game of the NLCS. As Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote, “Pujols had a .333 batting average through his first six postseason games of 2011. But it was a quiet and rather blah .333; Pujols had no homers and only one run batted in. Pujols had the hits, but where was the thunder?”[2]

In Game 2, the thunder came in the form of a home run, three doubles, and five RBIs from Pujols to spark a 12-3 victory that evened the series before it returned to St. Louis for Game 3. Cardinals second baseman Nick Punto said he could see Pujols’ intensity in pregame batting practice.

“He didn’t have a lot to say but I knew something was going to happen,” Punto said. “I’ve seen that a few times with him. I saw it a few times with (former Twins teammate Justin) Morneau. If you ever get him down, watch out.”[3]

Pujols and Jon Jay, who finished with three hits of his own on the day, sparked the Cardinals in the first inning. Jay laid down a bunt for a one-out single.

“It was one of those feelings I got, just go for it right there,” Jay said. “I went with my gut feeling that now was the good time to do it. It was the first inning, time to get something going.”[4]

Pujols, who had been 1-for-9 for his career against Brewers starter Shaun Marcum, followed with a two-run homer to get the Cardinals on the scoreboard. The home run was Pujols’ ninth NLCS home run, breaking a tie with Steve Garvey for the most in a career.

“Marcum has had success against Pujols this year,” Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “You look at those balls. They’re all elevated in the zone, but you elevate balls to a guy like Pujols, he’s going to make you pay for it.”[5]

In the third inning, starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and Jay each singled before Pujols doubled to the center-field wall. Nick Punto added an RBI single in the fourth to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 5-0.

In the bottom of the fourth, Brewers cleanup hitter Prince Fielder doubled and second baseman Rickie Weeks followed with a two-run homer that cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-2.

That was as close as the Brewers would come. Jay and Pujols hit back-to-back doubles to lead off the fifth and, with two outs, Pujols scored on a wild pitch to put the Cardinals ahead by five runs once more.

The Brewers threatened again in the bottom of the fifth when Jackson walked Corey Hart and allowed a ground-rule double to Ryan Braun. Arthur Rhodes entered the game to face Fielder, but walked him to load the bases.

With just one out in the inning, La Russa turned to Lance Lynn, the 6-foot-5, 270-pound right-hander out of Ole Miss, to face Weeks. Lynn had come up through the Cardinals’ system as a starter, but been used primarily out of the bullpen in his rookie year, making 16 relief appearances and even earning a save while posting a 3.12 ERA. An oblique strain had kept him out of action late in the season, but the rookie was reactivated in time for Game 1 of the NLCS.

“The best way to say it is this: We’re not reluctant to use him,” Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said. “There’s no reluctance on Tony (La Russa)’s part or my part to put him in the game. You might see him in any situation.”[6]

In this situation, Weeks swung at Lynn’s first offering and hit a ground ball to the shortstop Furcal to begin a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.

With the momentum on their side, the Cardinals rallied for four more runs in the seventh inning off Brewers reliever Kameron Loe. Among their six hits in the frame, the Cardinals got RBI singles from Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, David Freese, and Punto to extend their lead to 11-2. Pujols started the rally with a one-out double down the right-field line, setting a new League Championship Series record with his third double in a nine-inning game.

“Sometimes when they come, they come in a bunch,” Pujols said.[7]

“He was Albert,” Fielder said. “It’s no surprise. Former MVP. That’s what he does.”[8]

Fielder hit a solo home run off Mitchell Boggs to lead off the eighth, and Freese answered in the top of the ninth with a home run of his own.

Jason Motte retired the side in order in the ninth to cap off the win and even the NLCS at one game apiece.

Complementing Pujols’ five-RBI day was Jay, who went 3-for-5 and scored three runs – all on Pujols hits.

“I have all these veterans tell us take advantage of every opportunity you have,” Jay said. “Even in the offseason, when I’m working out, I’m not saying, ‘Hey, I want to have a good season.’ I want to get to the postseason. My goals aren’t, ‘Hey, let’s play the season and see what happens.’ I want to win. I want to be known as a winning player. That is one of the things that drive me.”[9]

Lynn’s single pitch was enough to earn him the first postseason win of his career. Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, and Motte each threw scoreless innings.

Marcum took the loss for the Brewers after allowing five earned runs in four innings.

“They did a great job hitting tonight,” Fielder said. “That pretty much wraps it up.”[10]


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[1] Joe Strauss, “Power surge for Pujols,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 11, 2011.

[2] Bernie Miklasz, “So, what do you think now?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 11, 2011.

[3] Joe Strauss, “Power surge for Pujols,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 11, 2011.

[4] Derrick Goold, “Jay finds comfort in two spot,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 11, 2011.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Game 2 is bumpy for Brewers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 11, 2011.

[6] Derrick Goold, “Lynn proves his value to Cards as reliever,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 11, 2011.

[7] Chris Jenkins, “Cards get even,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, October 11, 2011.

[8] Rick Hummel, “Game 2 is bumpy for Brewers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 11, 2011.

[9] Derrick Goold, “Jay finds comfort in two spot,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 11, 2011.

[10] Rick Hummel, “Game 2 is bumpy for Brewers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 11, 2011.

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