The NL player of the month in both May and June, Pujols leads the majors with a .378 average after a 2-for-5 performance in Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Cubs. He hit a three-run homer to raise his NL-leading RBI total to 80.
“You just try to stay consistent. I just try to concentrate on every at-bat,” said the 23-year-old Dominican native.
Pujols has homered in three straight games, raising his season total to 26. The only NL player with more is Edmonds, who has 27 after homering in each of the first two games of this series.
That’s one shy of Edmonds’ home run total from all of last season. The 33-year-old center fielder has eight homers and 18 RBIs in his last 11 games.
Mark Prior will be looking to quiet the Cardinals’ big bats as he takes the mound for Chicago. Pujols, however, has gone 5-for-7 with two homers against the Cubs’ right-hander.
Prior, third in the NL with a 2.54 ERA and second with 134 strikeouts, is 0-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his last three starts. He’s received just seven runs of support in that span.
The 22-year-old Prior will be opposed by a 36-year-old right-hander who may join him at this month’s All-Star Game.
Woody Williams is among the NL’s top 10 in wins, ERA and innings pitched (119), but has struggled recently. He’s given up five runs or more in four of five outings, going 2-2 with a 6.27 ERA.
“I like to take blame and responsibility for what I do on the field,” Williams said. “I haven’t been as good as I want to be and I’ve gotten beat.”
Alou, who entered this series in a 1-for-19 slump, homered three times in Friday’s opener and hit another Saturday. He has nine homers in 25 games after hitting five in his first 57 games this season.
Sosa also has homered in each of the last two games to reach 512 for his career, tying Ernie Banks and Ted Williams for 14th on the all-time list. Since serving his seven-game suspension for using a corked bat, Sosa has totaled seven home runs and 14 RBIs in 17 games.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 1st place, NL Central. Cubs - 3rd place, 1 GB, NL Central.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Williams (10-3, 3.18 ERA). The 11-year veteran lost to San Francisco on Friday, allowing five runs and six hits in seven innings of a 5-1 defeat. He made back-to-back starts against Chicago in May and went 1-0, surrendering six runs while striking out 15 in 16 innings. Williams had been 0-3 in four career starts against the Cubs entering this season.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Prior (8-3, 2.54 ERA). Prior did not get a decision in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss at Philadelphia, giving up three runs—one earned—and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings. In his only outing against St. Louis this year, Prior did not receive a decision in a 2-1 win on May 17, yielding a run and six hits in 7 1-3 innings. Prior lost his only previous career start against the Cardinals.
SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 5-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - LHP Jeff Fassero, who took the loss Saturday, has a 10.80 ERA in his last 11 appearances. … St. Louis had won six of seven on the road before Saturday’s loss. … The Cards have gotten out to 5-0 leads in both games of this series. Cubs - 2B Mark Grudzielanek is 4-for-31 (.129) lifetime against RHP Williams. … RHP Dave Veres has thrown two perfect innings in two relief appearances since being sidelined nearly three months with shoulder tendinitis. … Saturday’s win was just the third in 11 games for Chicago.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 18-23 on the road; Cubs - 21-19 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - C Joe Girardi (back), 15-day DL; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; INF Miguel Cairo (hand), 15-day DL; INF Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Russ Springer (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Cubs - LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL.