Surging Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals look for their first four-game winning streak since the season’s first week Tuesday night when they continue their three-game road series against Greg Maddux and the San Diego Padres.
St. Louis (27-20), which won a season-high five straight after losing on opening day to Colorado, took advantage of the worst team in baseball by tying a season high with a 16-hit attack in an 8-2 win over San Diego on Monday. Pujols hit two of the Cardinals’ four homers as they increased their NL-best hit total to 457.
It was Pujols’ second multihomer game and the 22nd of his career, and he went 3-for-5 for his fifth multihit effort in his last six games. He’s batting .444 (12-for-27) with six runs scored and five RBIs in that span.
“There’s nobody who is a better hitter than him in the big leagues,” manager Tony La Russa said. “The more he’s in play, the better chance we have.”
The Cardinals slugger will take part in a classic matchup against Maddux (3-4, 3.98 ERA), who he’s hitting .333 (12-for-36) in his career against. The 42-year-old veteran, however, has limited Pujols to two singles in 12 at-bats since the start of the 2006 season.
Maddux has pitched much better at home than on the road this season. He is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts at Petco Park compared to 2-4 with a 5.35 ERA in six road outings.
The four-time Cy Young Award winner, who is four wins shy of tying Roger Clemens for eighth on the all-time list with 354, enters after his shortest outing of the season. He lasted 4 1-3 innings and gave up four runs in a 4-0 road loss to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
Known for his impeccable control, Maddux leads the NL in walks per nine innings with 1.33. He is 26-20 in his career against the Cardinals, but 8-4 with a 3.11 ERA in his last 13 starts against them.
It’s unclear whether Maddux will have to face St. Louis’ Rick Ankiel, who has missed three straight games with a sprained right shoulder. The outfielder hit off a tee Monday, but is still listed as day-to-day.
San Diego (16-30), meanwhile, became the first team to lose 30 games as it came up with another anemic effort at the plate in a third straight loss. The Padres have scored two runs in each loss and have a season total of 152 - the lowest in baseball.
“We’re bad, no question about it,” Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. “You can’t say it’s early in the season. It’s up to these guys in the clubhouse. I’m certainly not going to watch this for four more months.”
They’ll try to beat St. Louis starter Joel Pineiro (2-2, 4.46) for the first time. The veteran right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.21 ERA in five career starts against the Padres, although he is 0-0 with a 6.00 ERA in two starts at Petco Park in which he has yielded five homers.
Pineiro is also unbeaten in his last five starts, going 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA. He hasn’t received a decision in his last three outings, including his team’s 11-5 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday as he gave up four runs over five innings.