Albert Pujols is chasing down a pair of Hall of Famers.
Already in a quest to win baseball’s first triple crown in 36 years, Pujols looks to inch closer to the longest hitting streak in club history, as the St. Louis Cardinals conclude their four-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
Continuing his pursuit of becoming the first triple crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, Pujols homered for the fourth straight game in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss.
The streak is also the longest for the Cardinals since Ken Boyer’s 29-game run in 1959. Yet, Pujols undoubtedly has his sights set on Rogers Hornsby, himself a triple crown winner who established a franchise record with his 33-game streak in 1922.
Pujols, who earlier this season became the first player in baseball history to hit 30 homers, drive in 100 runs and score 100 in each of his first three seasons, is batting .383 (41-for-107) during the run with seven homers, 22 RBIs and 25 runs.
Wednesday’s loss snapped the Cardinals’ four-game win streak and prevented St. Louis from tying Houston for first place in the NL Central. The Astros fell 6-4 to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, helping the Cubs pull to within one-half game of the Cardinals.
The Pirates snapped a two-game skid with Wednesday’s win, rallying for three runs over the final two innings, capped by Randall Simon’s pinch-single with the bases loaded in the ninth.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 2nd place, 1 GB, NL Central. Pirates - 4th place, 8 GB, NL Central.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Stephenson (6-11, 4.40 ERA). Stephenson is enjoying his best stretch of the season, going 2-1 with a 2.44 ERA over his last three starts. The right-hander yielded just one run and six hits over 7 1-3 innings of Saturday’s 3-1 win over Atlanta. However, he walked three and struck out one. Stephenson is 5-2 with a 3.99 ERA in 10 career starts against Pittsburgh, including nine starts.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Jeff D’Amico (7-11, 4.20 ERA). D’Amico broke a three-game losing streak with Saturday’s 10-4 win over Colorado. The 27-year-old right-hander allowed four runs and six hits over 6 2-3 innings, striking out five and walking two. D’Amico is 3-1 with a 5.06 ERA in six career appearances, including five starts, against St. Louis.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Pujols, .369 avg., 34 HRs, 108 RBIs and 106 runs; Edgar Renteria, 25 SBs. Pirates - Brian Giles, .309 avg. and 67 RBIs; Jason Kendall, 68 runs; Reggie Sanders, 25 HRs and 9 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 7-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - 1B-OF Pujols is hitting .400 with a double, a homer and five RBIs in five career at-bats against RHP D’Amico. He also has 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 23 career games in PNC Park. … St. Louis pitchers are hitting an NL-leading .215 (52-for-242), 72 points higher than the league average. … Manager Tony La Russa needs 13 victories for 2,000 in his career. Pirates - C Kendall is hitting .421 with one double, one homer and two RBIs in 19 career at-bats against RHP Stephenson. … The Pirates must win 27 of their final 44 games to avoid an 11th consecutive losing season. … OF Matt Stairs is hitting .422 (19-for-45) over his last 20 games, raising his average from .270 to.304.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 29-32 on the road; Pirates - 26-34 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.