After getting a home run from Pujols for the first time in nearly a month, the Cardinals look to bounce back from a series-opening loss to the last-place Washington Nationals when the teams continue a four-game set Saturday night.
Pujols hit his eighth homer Friday night, but St. Louis (19-26) had its three-game winning streak end with a 5-4 loss to Washington (20-29) in the series opener.
Pujols has hit just three home runs since April 28, and the Cardinals are 0-3 in those games. The first baseman, though, has been hitting well overall of late.
With a 3-for-4 day against the Nationals, Pujols is batting .432 (16-for-37) during a nine-game hitting streak that has raised his average from .245 to .287. He also is a .336 (48-for-143) career hitter with 12 homers - including five in his last seven meetings - against the Washington/Montreal franchise.
The Cardinals lost to the NL East’s worst team after sweeping Pittsburgh for their only three wins in their last nine games.
Brad Thompson (2-1, 4.67 ERA) will take the mound Saturday for St. Louis. The right-hander gave up a season-high five runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings as the Cardinals lost 6-3 to Detroit on Sunday.
Thompson has never started against Washington, but is 1-0 with no runs allowed over 7 1-3 innings in five relief appearances versus the Nationals.
The Cardinals have their top setup man back in the bullpen, with Ryan Franklin available for this series after missing two games with strep throat. The right-hander, who is 1-0 with a 0.95 ERA in 18 appearances, did not pitch Friday night.
“We now know his arm is in great shape,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa told the team’s official Web site. “We still have to be careful. That would be the reason you don’t push him. There’s too much at stake.”
The Nationals, winners of four straight and 11 of 15, will start Levale Speigner (1-0, 6.33). The right-hander, who had a 3.77 ERA in 12 relief appearances, has struggled since joining the rotation, posting an 11.57 ERA in two starts.
This will be the rookie’s first appearance against the Cardinals.
With its bullpen overworked, Washington would like to see Speigner go at least six innings for the first time. The Nationals have been working on his mechanics, hoping he can throw more strikes and keep his pitch count down.
“We are focusing on going straight down the hill, right toward the plate,” Speigner said. “I’ve been pulling off balls here and there. It has caused me to leave some balls up.”
Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young went 2-for-3 Friday, is batting .578 (15-for-26) in his last nine games to raise his average to .294 on the season.