The right-hander was wearing his old No. 37 jersey and even got his old locker stall back after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals. Then he was a success in his comeback start for a franchise where he thrived earlier this decade, setting the tone for a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
“I couldn’t help but think, seeing him back out there, how many really big games he pitched for us,” La Russa said. “I mean, games that meant a huge difference to the history of this franchise.
“You couldn’t help but think about that. I couldn’t.”
Pujols is 6 for 10 with five RBIs in three games, snapping a 1 for 18 skid that dropped him below .300. He’s a career .352 hitter in interleague play, best in the majors and said being in the lineup was never in doubt.
“I told you earlier, it doesn’t bother me,” Pujols said. “I’m fine, I felt good.”
Suppan, signed this week after being cut by Milwaukee, worked hard to get through four innings in his first start for St. Louis since Game 4 of the 2006 World Series. It was his first start since early April and, after working out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, he allowed only one run.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Suppan said. “I was trying to keep my emotions out of my pitching and just go out and focus on facing the Seattle Mariners.”
Suppan, who was 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA with the Brewers, also doubled and scored in a three-run fourth.
Rasmus homered for the second straight day, connecting in the fourth.
“Some good luck, I guess,” Rasmus said. “I’ve been working hard on my swing, trying to get good pitches to hit the ball hard, and it’s been working.”
Ichiro Suzuki(notes) had an infield hit to extend his interleague hitting streak to 19 games and Milton Bradley(notes) homered for the Mariners, who have lost seven of eight. Half of Bradley’s six homers have come in the last five games, and he also walked twice.
Bradley’s leadoff homer in the fourth was the only damage off Suppan. The MVP of the 2006 NL championship series struck out four, all of them in a row starting with pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith(notes) (0-6) in the second.
The Mariners also loaded the bases in the fifth against Blake Hawksworth(notes) (1-3) and came up empty. Josh Wilson(notes) failed each time with the bases loaded, both times on sharp grounders to short.
“You’re at a big advantage because the guy’s got to come to you,” Wilson said. “I don’t think I was trying too hard. I felt comfortable and I got the good pitches to hit, especially that first at-bat.”
Rowland-Smith also lasted only four innings and gave up three runs, all in the fourth. David Freese(notes) doubled ahead of Rasmus’ 13th homer and Suppan doubled with two outs and scored on a single by ninth-place hitter Brendan Ryan(notes).
“I threw a curveball to Rasmus that he hit pretty well,” Rowland-Smith said. “I wasn’t expecting him to hit the ball that well, that curveball.”
The Pujols-Ichiro matchup was the majors’ first in 68 years involving two players with at least 5,000 career at-bats and a lifetime batting average of .330 or better. The last time was 1942, with future Hall of Famers Joe Medwick (Dodgers) and Paul Waner (Braves).
NOTES: La Russa was a bit distracted during his daily media session, watching the comedy “Step Brothers” and punctuating comments with chuckles. … Jerry Lovelace, the Cardinals’ public relations director in the 1970s, died Tuesday. … Ichiro is batting .419 during the interleague hitting streak, which dates to June 17, 2009, and is the longest active streak in the majors. … Pujols has 37 homers and 117 RBIs in 483 interleague at-bats. … Ichiro leads the majors with 21 infield hits and got his 19th steal in 25 chances in the fifth. … Langerhans hit the Mariners’ first pinch-homer of the season. He has four for his career. … The Mariners are 20-9 when scoring four or more runs, 4-32 otherwise.