The red-hot Pujols looks to continue his success at home against a struggling Reds staff when the teams play the middle game of their series on Saturday night.
St. Louis (84-76) will miss the playoffs for the second straight year, but it has gotten another exceptional season from Pujols. An NL MVP candidate, Pujols has 36 home runs and 114 RBIs.
He’s also batting .357, trailing only Atlanta’s Chipper Jones (.365). Pujols, though, has made a late charge with seven straight hits over three games.
The veteran first baseman went 3-for-3 on Friday, including a two-run homer to lead the Cardinals to a 7-6 win over the Reds (74-86). Pujols, who won the NL MVP in 2005 and the batting title with a .359 average in 2003, has reached base nine of his last 10 plate appearances.
“Albert is a great player, as great as anybody playing today, and he shows it to you all the time,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “Just watch.”
Pujols has been outstanding at home against Cincinnati throughout his career, batting .386 with 17 home runs and 52 RBIs in 63 games. St. Louis has gone 44-19 in those contests.
It helps that Cincinnati continues to struggle on the mound this season, posting a 4.49 team ERA. The Reds have given up a total of 20 runs while losing their last three games.
Cincinnati will hand the ball to Aaron Harang (6-16, 4.72 ERA), who has had a subpar season. Usually the cornerstone of the Reds’ rotation, Harang will finish with his worst ERA since finishing the 2004 season at 4.86.
Harang, however, had his best start of the season versus the Cardinals, tossing a six-hitter in a 3-0 Reds win on Sept. 17.
In his last outing, he was able to earn a win against Florida despite allowing four runs in seven innings on Monday. He gave up eight hits and struck out six as Cincinnati won 7-5.
The veteran right-hander is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts versus the Cardinals this season, and 6-8 with a 4.63 ERA in 17 career starts against them.
St. Louis will counter with Todd Wellemeyer (12-9, 3.69), who has lost three straight starts despite a 3.18 ERA during that span. St. Louis gave him a total of one run to work with in those contests.
The right-hander allowed three runs and nine hits while striking out seven in six innings as St. Louis lost 4-2 to Arizona on Monday.
Wellemeyer is 1-3 with a 4.59 ERA in three starts and 14 relief appearances against the Reds.