Pujols and the Cardinals look to match a season high with their fourth straight win Thursday night when they finish a three-game series against the last-place Cincinnati Reds.
He played his familiar role of hero again Wednesday, hitting a two-run homer to snap a seventh-inning tie that lifted the Cardinals (26-30) to a 6-4 victory.
Pujols homered twice, including a two-run shot in the 10th inning, in an 8-6 win Sunday over Houston.
The former MVP has rebounded from a slow start and has raised his average 43 points in the past three weeks to .292. Pujols is batting .444 (16-for-36) in his last nine home games.
“I told you guys early in April and I told you guys two weeks ago ‘Talk to me in September,’” Pujols said to reporters. “If my numbers are terrible, I’ll say ‘Wow, it was a tough season.’”
“You look at our record and say ‘Wow, it’s a terrible season,’” Pujols said. “We knew the whole year wasn’t going to be the way we started. We knew everything was going to click.”
The Cardinals have pulled within five games of first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central, the closest the defending World Series champions have been to the top spot since April 29, the day before reliever Josh Hancock died in an auto accident. They were 10 games back on May 21.
“We’re trying to sniff .500 and we’re still four under,” manager Tony La Russa said. “That’s our only goal right now, to be a winning club.”
The return of third baseman Scott Rolen provided more good news for St. Louis.
Rolen, who missed four games with a strained right hamstring, had two hits Wednesday and is batting .483 (14-for-29) with seven RBIs in his last nine games.
Adam Wainwright (4-4, 5.12 ERA) will try to help the Cardinals win their fourth straight. Although he only has an 0-1 record to show for it, the right-hander has been very good in his last two starts, allowing three runs and 11 hits over 14 innings with four walks and 12 strikeouts.
Wainwright, who has surrendered two runs or fewer in five of his past six starts, has given up only one home run in his last seven outings, spanning 38 1-3 innings.
He has no record and a 2.70 ERA in five career relief appearances against Cincinnati.
Cincinnati (22-38) has allowed 24 runs during a four-game losing streak and owns the worst record in the NL. The Reds need a win to avoid being swept in a three-game series for the second time this season.
Kyle Lohse (2-7, 4.58) will be seeking his third straight effective start when he takes the mound for the Reds. The right-hander has pitched much better in his past two starts after losing his six previous outings.
After tossing a six-hitter for his fourth career shutout in a win over Pittsburgh, Lohse gave up three runs and five hits over six innings Saturday in a 4-1 loss at Colorado.
Lohse was reached for five runs and 11 hits through six innings in a 7-5 loss at St. Louis on April 26. He is 0-2 with a 5.29 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals.