St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols doesn’t think of himself as a home run hitter, but he’s been driving balls out of the park at a historic pace.
Pujols looks to stay hot at the plate as the Cardinals wrap up a three-game series Sunday with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Busch Stadium.
Pujols became the fastest player in major league history to reach 19 home runs, hitting a second-inning solo shot in the Cardinals’ 9-1 win on Saturday. Pujols reached the milestone in his 37th game, beating Mickey Mantle in 1956 and Luis Gonzalez—Arizona’s current left fielder—in 2001, by three games.
“I’m not a home run hitter,” Pujols said. “McGwire’s a home run hitter, Bonds is a home run hitter.
“I’m a line drive hitter with power, and that’s it. All I try to do is just hit for average, and hopefully if I put a good swing on it the ball’s going to go out of the park.”
Pujols hit a career-best 46 homers in 2004 and is on pace to hit 81 this year. He also had RBI singles in the first and fourth, raising his major league-leading total to 47.
“I just liked his at-bats,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He just doesn’t give any at-bats away and he’s competing all the time.”
Scott Rolen went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and five RBIs, his first since April 16. Rolen missed nine games due to a respiratory illness in late April and early May, and had been struggling at the plate since.
The Cardinals (24-13) have won seven of eight overall and are 14-3 against the Diamondbacks the last four seasons.
He was coming off a strong outing in which he gave up just one run in seven innings of a 5-1 win May 3 over the Chicago Cubs.
“I didn’t pitch as good as last time,” he said. “I missed my location more.”
Batista is 0-3 with a 6.64 ERA in 18 career appearances, including seven starts, against the Cardinals. The ERA is his worst against any National League team.
Pujols is 1-for-4 all-time against Batista, with his only hit a homer.
Orlando Hernandez was originally scheduled to pitch this game, but a rainout Thursday allowed Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin to push the struggling starter back to Tuesday. Hernandez, who was unhappy with the decision, has allowed 14 runs on 9 1-3 innings in his last two starts and owns a 7.36 ERA for the season.
The Cardinals will counter with Chris Carpenter (3-2, 2.21 ERA), who allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings of the Cardinals’ 4-2 win Tuesday over Colorado, but did not receive a decision. However, he walked six batters, his most since also issuing six walks Aug. 14, 2001, while with Toronto.
Pujols hit a three-run eighth inning homer to give St. Louis the win in that game.
“He’s an unbelievable player, an unbelievable hitter,” Carpenter said. “He’s a human being and he’s going to make mistakes and he’s going to make outs, but when we need him the most, against a tough pitcher, he comes through.”
Carpenter has had plenty of success against the Diamondbacks, going 3-0 with a 3.22 ERA in four lifetime starts against them.