St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols(notes) usually does a lot of damage against the Kansas City Royals, while Ryan Ludwick(notes) doesn’t. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy decision for Kansas City to decide how to handle the heart of St. Louis’ batting order.
While Pujols has outstanding numbers against nearly every team in the majors, he has been particularly effective against the team located in the area where he played baseball in high school and college. He is a career .385 hitter with 11 homers and 42 RBIs in 40 games against the Royals (29-37).
It’s a different story for Ludwick, the cleanup batter providing protection for Pujols. Ludwick is a .193 hitter in 17 career games against the Royals with four homers, eight RBIs and no multihit efforts.
Half of Ludwick’s RBIs, though, came on one swing of the bat in Friday’s 10-5 victory. The Royals intentionally walked Pujols and Ludwick made them pay with a grand slam as part of a six-run third inning.
“It’s a no-brainer for me. I’ll pitch to a guy that has got nine home runs over a guy who has 23 and 75 percent more RBI production any day,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
Pujols already had a two-run single in the first inning for St. Louis (37-31), which built an 8-1 lead after three.
“It’s a pitcher’s problem and a hitter’s plus,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who earned his 2,498th career win.
Kansas City will probably be happy to have Bannister (5-3, 4.10 ERA) on the mound for this afternoon start. He was outstanding Sunday against Cincinnati, giving up an unearned run and four hits in a 7-1 victory.
Bannister improved to 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three afternoon starts this season. He is 15-4 with a 4.29 ERA in 26 career day games, compared to 13-25 with a 4.92 ERA at night.
“I like pitching in the day,” Bannister said. “I’m kind of a morning guy, so my body feels good. … I try to put the pressure on them early.”
The right-hander looks to defeat the Cardinals for the second time this season. He allowed two runs over six innings May 24 to earn a 3-2 victory, improving to 3-1 with 4.01 ERA in four starts versus St. Louis.
Bannister has limited Pujols to two hits in eight at-bats with two walks, no homers and no RBIs. Ludwick is 2 for 4 with one RBI versus Bannister.
St. Louis will turn to ace Chris Carpenter(notes) (4-1, 1.59), who looks to bounce back from his first loss. He gave up three runs over seven innings Sunday, getting outpitched by reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee(notes) in a 3-0 loss at Cleveland.
The right-hander fell to 2-4 with a 5.10 ERA in seven career interleague starts with St. Louis. That includes a 9-6 win over the Royals on May 19, 2006, in which he allowed six runs over six innings.
That was Carpenter’s only start against Kansas City since 2002.