Pujols will try to lead the Cardinals to their season-high sixth straight win as they wrap up the regular season against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Two years after winning the World Series, the Cardinals (85-76) will miss the playoffs again, but they’ve made strides from a 78-84 record last year - their first losing season since 1999.
Pujols, who entered the game having recorded seven consecutive hits, was 0-for-3 before hitting his team-high 37th homer. The Cardinals slugger in hitting .356, and likely will finish second to Atlanta’s Chipper Jones for the National League batting title but could get consideration for the MVP.
With his latest homer, Pujols also scored his 100th run, reaching the milestone for the seventh time in eight seasons. He’s the only player in major league history with 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first eight seasons.
“Albert, he gets on base, he finishes rallies,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s the whole deal.”
St. Louis has averaged 7.6 runs and hit .393 during its winning streak.
“We really had a discouraging first couple of weeks,” La Russa said, recalling the Cardinals’ 6-13 start to September that knocked them out of the NL wild-card race. “Instead of throwing the last two weeks away, they’ve showed how competitive they are.”
Ace Kyle Lohse (15-6, 3.78 ERA) will close out the season for St. Louis.
Lohse, who leads the Cardinals in wins, has also set a career-high in victories. He’s won his last two starts, pitching six innings against Arizona on Tuesday, allowing three runs and seven hits in a 7-4 win.
“I think I’ve had to be pretty consistent over the year to get to that number,” Lohse told the Cardinals’ official Web site. “Hopefully I can get one more.”
Lohse is 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA in three starts against the Reds.
Pettyjohn was 15-6 with a 4.59 ERA this season in Triple-A Louisville before being called up on Sept. 9. The left-hander is making his first start with the Reds—he’s pitched two innings of relief, allowing one run and four hits.
The Reds have lost four straight, and will finish their eighth straight losing season.
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