If Pujols keeps hitting like this, he’ll come pretty close to taking something else off Bonds’ hands too—the single-season home run record.
After hitting home run No. 714 on Saturday afternoon, Bonds seemed relieved — and offered a suggestion for those looking for another juicy storyline for the 2006 season.
“I’m just glad it’s over with,” Bonds said. “You guys can go watch Albert Pujols now.”
Right on cue, Pujols hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning hours later to put the Cardinals (28-15) up 4-1. Pujols, who leads the majors with 21 homers and 53 RBIs, also had a two-run homer Friday night. During Bonds’ record-setting season of 2001, when he finished with 73 homers, the Giants slugger had 22 through 43 games.
“He’s amazing,” Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein said. “He shows up every single day wanting to win bad. It just seems like when it is on him and to keep the momentum on our side, when we need a big hit he comes out and delivers.”
Pujols has a history of delivering against Scott Elarton, who will be making the start for Kansas City on Sunday. In his career, Pujols is 3-for-5 against the right-hander with four RBIs—and two of those hits have been home runs.
If only the Royals had someone as talented and reliable to depend on. Kansas City can’t win on the road and now they’re having problems winning at home.
The Royals have lost eight straight and are in the midst of the worst road start in major league history, going 2-20. But at least they were .500 (8-8) at home entering this series. With losses Friday and Saturday, Kansas City (10-30) set a franchise record for the worst record through 40 games, breaking last year’s 11-29 mark.
“We’ve done a lot of bad stuff to lose games. If we don’t hit, we get pretty good pitching. When we hit, we don’t get good pitching,” Royals manager Buddy Bell said. “It’s kind of a vicious cycle right now. Hopefully, we can end this soon.”
The Cardinals, on the other hand, have the best record in the NL and have taken nine of the last 10 games with the Royals. St. Louis has won eight of its last 10 overall and it continues to succeed in interleague play: its .653 (49-25) winning percentage is the best in the majors over the last six seasons. Overall, the Cardinals are 21-14 against Kansas City, improving that mark with a 9-6 win Friday and a 4-2 victory Saturday.
About the only player who has struggled for the Cardinals against the Royals is Jeff Suppan (4-3, 4.70 ERA), St. Louis’ starter Sunday. Suppan, who played for Kansas City from 1998-2002, is 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA in four appearances against his former team.
The Cardinals only loss against the Royals in the last 10 games—on May 22, 2005—came with Suppan on the mound.
The right-hander had his four-game winning streak snapped in his last start. He gave up four runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings in an 8-3 loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday.
“He made too many mistakes,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “We made mistakes. In a game that had a chance to be close, you can’t make mistakes like that and win.”
After losing his first four games, Elarton (0-4, 4.38) hasn’t earned a decision in his last five starts. He’s 4-2 with a 3.79 ERA in 13 career appearances against St. Louis, all of which came when he was with Houston and Colorado.
Elarton hasn’t faced the Cardinals since 2003. The Royals have only three wins from their starting pitchers this season.