Riding a 25-game hitting streak, Pujols has homered in back-to-back games, including a first-inning shot in the Cardinals’ 6-4 win over Pittsburgh on Monday.
Pujols, who leads the majors with a .367 batting average, has battered the Pirates at PNC, hitting nine homers in 21 career games.
The 23-year-old slugger, who is in the running to become the first Triple Crown winner since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, is batting .377 (37-for-98) during his hitting streak with five homers, 16 RBIs and 21 runs scored.
It is the longest streak for the Cardinals since Joe McEwing also hit in 25 straight in 1999.
Winners of four of five, the Cardinals are a victory away from their first four-game winning streak since June 1-6, when they won five in a row. The Cardinals trail first-place Houston in the NL Central by two games and are 2 1/2 games behind wild card-leading Philadelphia.
The Pirates have dropped five of eight, with manager Lloyd McClendon taking Monday’s defeat especially hard after Pittsburgh outhit St. Louis 17-10.
“I don’t know how many ways I can say it—I’m disappointed with what happened,” McClendon said. “It’s a very disappointing night. When you get 17 hits and only score four runs, you can’t help but be disappointed.”
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 2nd place, 2 GB, NL Central. Pirates - 4th place, 9 GB, NL Central.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Tomko (8-7, 5.44 ERA). Over .500 for the first time this season, the righty has won consecutive starts and is coming off his best performance of the season. In Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Florida Marlins, Tomko allowed just four hits over eight innings, holding the Marlins hitless until the fifth. In 11 games career against Pittsburgh—including 10 starts— Tomko is 3-4 with a 4.71 ERA.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Josh Fogg (6-6, 5.07 ERA). Although the righty is 0-2 in his last three starts, he’s coming off one of his strongest outings of the year in a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday. Fogg allowed just three hits over six scoreless innings, but didn’t receive a decision. In six career starts against the Cardinals, Fogg is 1-4 with 8.49 ERA. Fogg had one of his worst starts of the season against St. Louis in a 13-8 loss on July 26, allowing seven runs and 10 hits in four innings.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Pujols, .367 avg., 32 HRs, 102 RBIs and 102 runs; Edgar Renteria, 25 SBs. Pirates - Jason Kendall, .308 avg. and 67 runs; Reggie Sanders, 22 HRs and 9 SBs; Brian Giles, 65 RBIs.
SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 6-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - The Cardinals are in a stretch of 13 straight games against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. … OF Edmonds has no RBIs in his last 12 games …. The Cardinals recalled RHP Jimmy Journell from Triple-A Memphis on Monday and optioned RHP Josh Pearce to Memphis. Pirates - OF Kendall is 6-for-17 (.353) career against RHP Tomko with two homers. … LHP Mike Gonzalez joined the Pirates on Monday after being recalled from Triple-A Nashville, giving McClendon a second left-hander in his bullpen to join Joe Beimel. … The Pirates have used nine starting pitchers this season, compared to 11 last season. They have used 20 pitchers overall, five short of the club record set in 1996.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 27-31 on the road; Pirates - 25-32 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - C Joe Girardi (back), 15-day DL; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; 2B Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Morris (hand), 15-day DL; LHP Lance Painter (calf), 15-day DL; RHP Russ Springer (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (foot), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Pirates - RHP Salomon Torres (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Kris Benson (shoulder), 60-day DL; LHP Dave Williams (shoulder), 60-day DL; INF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; INF Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL.