Cardinals 12, Reds 6
Pujols hit a grand slam in the seventh inning for his 40th homer of the season and the 200th of his career, rescuing a pitching staff that surrendered 10 walks in the first six innings of a 12-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.
“Sometimes you get what you deserve,” manager Tony La Russa said. “For 40 to be 200, and to be a grand slam, it’s like it’s in the movies.”
Reggie Sanders’ two-run double snapped a sixth-inning tie and David Eckstein matched his season high with four hits, drove in two runs and had a steal for the Cardinals. St. Louis (98-62) is 4-8 since clinching the NL Central and needs to sweep the season-ending three-game series to reach 100 victories in consecutive seasons for only the second time in franchise history.
“I know we haven’t been playing the way we want the last week or so but that’s part of the season,” Pujols said. “We’ve been so consistent this year. Hopefully we bounce back, we pick it up.”
Pujols’ first homer since Sept. 8 came off Matt Belisle in the seventh and put the Cardinals ahead 11-4. He has four career grand slams and this one made him, at 25 years and 257 days, the third-fastest player to reach 200 homers, behind only Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews.
In terms of games played, he’s the second-fastest to 200 at 4 years and 181 days, trailing only Ralph Kiner, who did it in 4 years, 119 days.
“It doesn’t matter,” Pujols said. “If I would have had it tonight or next year, it’s just a home run, just like the 199th home run I hit before that. It’s about winning.”
Pujols added an RBI single in the fourth to tie his career best of five RBIs.
Mark Mulder, a 16-game winner who will start Game 2 of the playoffs, matched his career high with seven walks in his second straight shaky outing. He faced 21 batters in four innings, and only nine of them put the ball in play—he also had five strikeouts.
“I had really good stuff, I just couldn’t throw any strikes with anything,” Mulder said. “It was a little frustrating just because I felt so good.”
Edwin Encarnacion, who was 2-for-2 with three walks, walked both at-bats against Mulder.
“I think the ball moved too much today,” Encarnacion said. “I was looking for strikes and he didn’t give them to me.”
Mark McGwire made his first appearance at Busch Stadium this season as part of a final-weekend reunion at the 40-year-old ballpark. He participated in the stadium countdown, removing the number 3 from the right-field wall after the end of the fifth.
Felipe Lopez had two hits and two RBIs for the Reds, who have lost five of six. He also committed two errors on a grounder in the eighth, one for fielding and one for a wild throw that allowed Hector Luna to go to second.
Mulder gave up five hits and three runs, but none were earned as a result of his fielding error on Ryan Freel’s two-out bases-loaded grounder in the fourth that allowed the Reds’ first run to score. The next batter, Lopez, hit a two-run single that put Cincinnati ahead 3-2.
In his last two outings, Mulder has lasted 5 2-3 innings and surrendered 10 runs—seven earned. He loaded the bases on walks in the fourth, then had a chance to escape on consecutive forceouts at the plate before the error.
“I’m ready to go,” Mulder said. “This won’t happen in the playoffs.”
Sanders, who returned from a broken leg on Sept. 12, struggled with his timing for a while. But in his last four games he has two homers, two doubles and seven RBIs.
Sanders’ opposite-field two-run double with two outs off Luke Hudson (6-9) snapped a 4-all tie in the sixth.
Reds starter Randy Keisler lasted 3 1-3 innings and gave up four runs and nine hits. Eight of the runs against the Reds were unearned.
“It just got away from us,” manager Jerry Narron said. “With the lineup they have, you can’t afford to give outs.”
Cardinals reliever Ray King was ejected after walking Adam Dunn on a full count with the bases loaded in the sixth. Before leaving, King went to the plate to talk to plate umpire Travis Reininger. … McGwire had two entries on the list of top 10 memories at Busch Stadium as decided by on-line fan voting, No. 2 for his 62nd homer in 1998 and No. 10 for his 70th that year. The No. 1 memory was Ozzie Smith’s game-winning home run off the Dodgers’ Tom Niedenfuer in the 1985 playoffs. … Members of the 1985 team were honored before the game, arriving at home plate in convertibles. … Mark Grudzielanek got his 500th career RBI on an infield hit in the third.