Like many opposing managers, the Detroit Tigers Jim Leyland has tried to take the bat out of Albert Pujols’(notes) hands. Fortunately for the St. Louis Cardinals, their other hitters have started to step up.
Perhaps no manager has been more respectful of Pujols’ power than Leyland, but his tactics have yet to break his team’s losing streak in St. Louis.
Searching for their first sweep of the Tigers on Thursday night, the Cardinals will also try for their seventh straight home win against Detroit—a streak that includes the 2006 World Series.
Pujols, the reigning NL MVP, is again producing award-winning numbers in hitting .323 with a major league-leading 23 home runs and 58 RBIs. He’s also been intentionally walked 21 times, including once in Wednesday night’s 4-3 win over the Tigers, and drawn 51 overall walks.
Entering their series against Detroit, the Cardinals (36-30) had scored three runs or fewer in 10 of 15 games before breaking out for an 11-2 win in Tuesday night’s opener. Pujols hit the longest home run at Busch Stadium this season (446 feet) for his only hit, and Brendan Ryan(notes), Joe Thurston(notes) and Yadier Molina(notes) combined to drive in seven runs. Skip Schumaker(notes) and Chris Duncan(notes) each had three hits and an RBI.
Rasmus leads NL rookies with seven homers and 26 RBIs, and 17 of his last 27 hits have gone for extra bases.
“He’s having good swings,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He’ll chase a pitch now and then, but he’s got a good strike zone for a young hitter.”
The Cardinals hitters will try to help right-hander Joel Pineiro(notes) (5-7, 3.99 ERA) snap a four-game losing streak and earn his second win since May 2. Pineiro is 6-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 10 appearances against the Tigers, all from 2000-06 while with Seattle.
Pineiro could use more support, as he has received less than two runs per start in his last eight outings.
The Tigers (34-31) will look to rookie right-hander Rick Porcello(notes) (7-4, 3.71) as they try to avoid a season-high fifth straight loss. Since May 5, Porcello is 6-1 with a 2.53 ERA, and he allowed one run over seven innings in Friday night’s 3-1 victory at Pittsburgh.
He also had two hits and drove in two runs in his first three major league at-bats.
“He’s just an athlete, one of those special guys,” Leyland said. “He’s 20 years old and succeeding in the big leagues, and he’s just a baby.”
One of the team’s more experienced hitters, Curtis Granderson(notes), broke an 0-for-10 slump and 0-for-22 skid in interleague play with Wednesday’s 3-for-4 performance that included two solo homers. Granderson, who has batted .467 (21 for 45) with three homers and 11 RBIs against the Cardinals, struck out with the bases empty to end the game.
The Tigers are 0-5 at the new Busch Stadium after dropping their final game at the Cardinals’ previous home in 2001.