Pujols seeks a third straight strong performance Wednesday night when the St. Louis Cardinals continue their four-game home set against the Pirates.
Pujols has dominated the Pirates throughout his career, batting .367 against them in 479 at-bats with 36 homers, 108 RBIs, 45 doubles and a .455 on-base percentage. His success against Pittsburgh (1-1) has been even more extreme since the start of last season. He’s reached base safely in all 19 games versus the Pirates over that span, batting .457 (32-for-70) with three homers, eight doubles, 13 walks and a .545 on-base percentage.
After going 3-for-4 in Monday’s season-opening 6-4 loss, the St. Louis slugger reached base safely all five times he batted Tuesday. He had a two-run homer, singled, walked twice and reached on an error as the Cardinals (1-1) cruised to a 9-3 victory.
“If you can figure out (how to stop him), you go tell the whole league,” Pittsburgh manager John Russell said.
Pujols’ success appears likely to continue in the series finale. He’s 10-for-22 (.455) with three doubles and a homer in his career against Pirates starter Zach Duke.
Duke, who turns 26 on April 19, is still trying to recapture the promise he showed as a rookie in 2005, when he went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts. The left-hander is 18-37 with a 4.82 ERA over the last three seasons.
He had a miserable time in 2008, going 5-14 with a 4.82 ERA. Though he didn’t pitch well, Duke may have deserved a better fate as the Pirates provided him with no run support in seven of his losses.
Duke lost both of his starts against St. Louis last season, and is 0-4 in his last five outings versus the Cardinals after posting a 2-0 record the first four times he faced them.
St. Louis counters with right-hander Todd Wellemeyer, a converted reliever who went 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA over 32 starts in 2008 - his first full season in the rotation. He went 3-0 with a 3.45 ERA in five starts versus the Pirates, earning all three wins at Busch Stadium while compiling a 1.89 ERA in those outings.
Sanchez had a two-run homer and a single Tuesday, but Pittsburgh went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. St. Louis, meanwhile, went 4-for-11 in RBI situations as Colby Rasmus, Khalil Greene, Yadier Molina, Joe Thurston and Pujols all had multi-hit games.
“I wouldn’t want to pitch against us right now,” said Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse, who earned the win. “Hopefully, we can have more nights like tonight.”
This series concludes Thursday afternoon, when Chris Carpenter - who’s started only four games the last two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery - is scheduled to pitch for St. Louis.