The Cardinals have lost three of their last four and will try to avoid being swept in their series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium.
Meanwhile, Pujols will look to take another step toward Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby’s record for the longest hitting streak in club history.
Pujols has hit safely in 30 straight games, tying the second-longest streak in Cardinals history. Stan Musial also had a 30-game run in 1950. Hornsby set his 33-game mark in 1922.
Philadelphia, which has a half-game lead over the Florida Marlins in the NL wild-card race, has won four straight.
Jose Mesa worked the ninth inning for his 22nd save in 25 opportunities, and his first since manager Larry Bowa took away his closing duties on Aug. 3.
Bowa used various relievers in the closer role while Mesa worked on his mechanics with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan during the last 10 days.
”(Mesa’s) got the best stuff of anybody in the bullpen, he’s our best guy out there,” said left-hander Dan Plesac, who earned a save on Friday night. “Batters go into slumps. Hitters go into slumps. It just gets magnified when things go wrong in the ninth inning. There’s no lifeguard out there when you’re a closer.”
This will be the Cardinals’ final regular game at the Vet, because the Phillies will be moving into a new stadium next season. St. Louis has an all-time record of 119-129 there.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 3rd place, 1 GB, NL Central. Phillies - 2nd place, 12 GB, NL East.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Brett Tomko (9-7, 5.46 ERA). Tomko will be looking to win his fourth consecutive start. Over his past three outings, he has allowed seven earned runs in 19 2-3 innings. He worked six innings Tuesday, giving up four runs and eight hits in a 10-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 30-year-old right-hander is 2-1 with a 5.00 ERA in eight career games against the Phillies.
PHILLIES PROBABLE STARTER: Amaury Telemaco (no record). Called up to replace struggling right-hander Brandon Duckworth, Telemaco will be making his first major-league appearance since 2001. The 29-year-old right-hander was 10-9 with a 3.24 ERA at Triple-A Scranton. He had allowed 125 hits and just 22 walks in 155 1-3 innings.
SEASON SERIES: Phillies, 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - 3B Scott Rolen, who was traded from the Phillies last season, is hitting .423 (11-for-26) against Philadelphia in his career. … The Cardinals placed OF J.D. Drew on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 9, with a strained right oblique muscle. … LF Pujols became the 38th player in history with a 30-game hitting streak. Phillies - LHP Plesac appeared in his 1,050th career game on Friday, tying him with Kent Tekulve for fourth place on the all-time list. … The Phillies are 24-0 when they score eight or more runs. … C Lieberthal is batting .313 (5-for-16) with a homer in his career against RHP Tomko.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 30-34 on the road; Phillies - 38-26 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - OF Drew (oblique), 15-day DL; 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 (ankle), 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. Phillies - 3B David Bell (back), 15-day DL; RHP David Coggin (shoulder), 15-day DL.