San Diego (71-59) at St. Louis (86-44)

Fair Currently: St. Louis, MO
Temp: 67° F
  • Game info: 8:10 pm EDT Tue Aug 31, 2004
  • TV: Ch4, FSMW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After joining some elite company Sunday, Albert Pujols looks to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to their ninth win in 11 games as they open a three-game set with the San Diego Padres.

Pujols hit his 40th home run and reached 100 RBIs for the fourth consecutive season as the Cardinals, owners of the majors’ best record, completed a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 4-0 victory Sunday.

Pujols, who leads the majors with 111 runs scored, became the fourth player to start his major league career with four straight seasons with at least 100 RBIs. He joined Hall of Famers Al Simmons, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams as the only players to accomplish the feat.

“It’s awesome,” Pujols said. “It’s tough to get 100 at this level, but I’m here to do the best I can to win. I don’t care who they try to compare me to. I just want to be myself and try to get better every day. It’s about winning. That’s why I’m here. I want to be a winner and hopefully we’ll get that opportunity this year.”

Pujols is a career .393 hitter (24-for-61) against the Padres with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 18 games.

Sunday’s win was the eighth in 10 games for the Cardinals and pushed them five games ahead of the New York Yankees for the best record in baseball. St. Louis has won four straight and 10 of 12 at home.

“There’s a terrific attitude on this team,” manager Tony La Russa said. “The guys really push each other. This club has played at a really high level for a long time and that’s hard to do. You have to dig deep and they do, every day.”

The Cardinals will have to contend with surging Padres right-hander Brian Lawrence, who is coming off back-to-back complete games—the first San Diego pitcher to do so since Andy Ashby in 1998. Lawrence beat Florida 1-0 on Aug. 20 before blanking the New York Mets 4-0 on Thursday.

David Wells won his seventh consecutive road decision Sunday and helped himself with a single for his first career RBI, leading the Padres to an 11-3 victory over the Montreal Expos.

Ryan Klesko and Khalil Greene each hit two-run homers for the Padres, who are five games behind first-place Los Angeles in the NL West and ended the weekend tied with the Chicago Cubs for the wild card.

“I don’t like to look ahead too often and get ahead of ourselves,” Greene said. “I just worry about what we do. As long as we can beat the teams we need to beat, then I think we’ll be fine.”

The Padres, who are 6-1 on a 10-game road trip, haven’t been involved in a playoff race since 1998, when they won their second NL pennant before being swept in the World Series by the Yankees.

“We have to get ready for the team with the best record in the National League,” Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. “The Cardinals are playing great, we have to go and play our best ball. That’s the only thing on my mind.”

Starting Pitchers

B. Lawrence LAA vs. W. Williams Hou
15-14 Record 11-8
4.12 ERA 4.18
121 K 131
55 BB 58
1.38 WHIP 1.32