The reigning NL MVP ended a four-game drought by hitting his league-leading 13th homer Friday in St. Louis’ 8-3 loss. The eighth-inning solo shot off Felix Rodriguez tied the mark for most homers in April shared by Ken Griffey Jr. and Luis Gonzalez.
Those record-setting months led Griffey and Gonzalez to career highs for homers in a season. Griffey finished with 56 for Seattle in 1997 and Gonzalez had 57 with Arizona in 2001, the year Bonds set the major league record with 73.
Pujols, who is on pace for 91 homers, said the record means little to him.
“I don’t care about the home run,” Pujols said. “It would have been great if I would have hit it and we would have won. It’s just another home run for me.”
Against Livan Hernandez (1-3, 6.68 ERA), who gets the start for Washington (8-15) in this contest, Pujols is hitting .381 (8-for-21) with a homer, two RBIs and five strikeouts.
Hernandez could again be the ace of the Nationals’ staff if he could find a way to get out of first-inning jams. The Cuban-born right-hander has allowed 27 runs in 32 1-3 innings this season, but given up 12 runs in the first innings of his five starts.
He gave up three more first-inning runs Monday during a 4-2 loss to Cincinnati.
“Everybody’s waiting for me to do a better job,” said Hernandez, who said offseason knee surgery is not affecting him. “Everybody knows I can pitch better. It’s difficult for me.”
Hernandez is 4-5 with a 4.93 ERA and two complete games in his career against the Cardinals (15-8).
Chris Carpenter (3-1, 1.91) looks for his third straight victory when he gets the start for St. Louis. On Monday, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner allowed two runs and eight hits over eight innings in a 7-2 win over Pittsburgh.
“I was up in the strike zone more than I’ve been,” Carpenter said. “When you’re up in the strike zone, they’re going to put good swings on the ball.”
Carpenter, 39-11 since joining St. Louis in 2004, is 5-1 with a 3.54 ERA in eight career starts against the Nationals franchise. His only loss came when he was outdueled by Hernandez on May 29 in a 3-2 loss.
Carpenter gave up three runs and eight hits with eight strikeouts and no walks. Hernandez was limited St. Louis to just two runs and seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Both pitchers lasted seven innings.
Friday’s victory was only Washington’s second in nine games this season against NL Central opponents. First baseman Nick Johnson had two hits, including a two-run homer, and three RBIs to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 14 games.
St. Louis was again without All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen, who has missed the last four games with an upper respiratory ailment.