Sun Sep 25 07:48pm EDT
After a 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs, the most pertinent question is actually this one: Was that Pujols' last game at Busch Stadium this week?
Though Cardinals fans bathed their superstar free agent-to-be with a 45-second standing ovation in the first inning, there remains a chance that they could get another opportunity to lay another guilt trip on Pujols very soon. Rafael Furcal's(notes) go-ahead homer in the eighth — combined with Atlanta's 3-0 loss in Washington — cut the Cards' deficit in the NL wild card race to just one game. If St. Louis can make up one more game over the next three days, they'll host the Atlanta Braves in a one-game tiebreaker on Thursday.
Of course, with the way things are going, Cards fans might have to wait an entire week to see Pujols and the rest of the team in the NLDS. St. Louis has won 15 of its last 20 games, while Atlanta has lost 10 of its last 15. Were it not for Thursday's ninth inning meltdown against the Mets, the teams would already be tied.
But considering the slim margin — which was as once as big as 8 1/2 games — it's understandable that Pujols won't get anywhere near questions about 2012.
"What next move?" Pujols said. "I don't think about that and that's not my job to discuss what my next move is going to be ... My next move is to jump on a plane and go to Houston and be ready to play tomorrow."
Whether or not the Cardinals make the postseason and the exact date of Pujols' return to Busch Stadium remains to be seen. St. Louis gets the gift of traveling to face the Houston Astros for the last season of the series while Atlanta gets to face a Philadelphia Phillies team that hasn't been fully engaged since clinching the division.
But regardless of what happens, it's likely that speculation over Pujols' future — an admittedly sexy topic — won't be that far away. Despite Pujols refusing to address any aspect of whether or not he'll come back, Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch reported on Sunday that the Cards won't increase the offer that they made last offseason (around $22 million a season) and could even decrease the amount of guaranteed years in the deal.
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