“It’s been known to happen on occasion,” the St. Louis Cardinals’ utilityman said. “I’ve actually shredded people’s dress shirts on airplane flights.”
Teammates returned the favor after Punto’s game-winning sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the 10th inning beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3 on Friday night. During the ensuing celebration on the field, they tore off Punto’s jersey.
“I guess that was payback,” Punto said. “It’s a celebration of friendship, good friends.”
“Our season is not over,” Pujols said. “All we can do is go out there and give it our best and hopefully at the end we can look back and say we gave it our best this year”
Pujols had three hits and his hit just inside the first-base line with two outs in the ninth ended Kimbrel’s streak of 25 consecutive saves. The Cardinals loaded the bases on a hit and two walks for Pujols, who is 4 for 10 with 11 RBIs with the bases loaded.
“Whenever you put guys on for free, it seems like it always comes back to get you,” Kimbrel said. “I hung a pitch there at the end and he kept it inside the line.
“I made a mistake and he made me pay for it.”
Pujols is batting .298 and has 87 RBIs with 18 games to go. He’s batted .300 with 100 RBIs each of his 11 seasons.
Matt Holliday(notes) and Lance Berkman(notes) singled off Scott Linebrink(notes) (4-3) to start the 10th and moved up on a sacrifice. Skip Schumaker(notes) was intentionally walked before Punto, with a full count, ended it with a line drive to center in his first plate appearance since coming off the 15-day disabled list from an oblique injury.
Punto has been limited to only 48 games and has been on the disabled list three times.
“It’s been a tough year for me, definitely,” Punto said. “To be able to put that ball in play, it was huge.”
Pujols said Punto was among a small group of teammates able to shred shirts. Punto absolved himself of financial obligation.
“The Shredder, he doesn’t pay guys back,” Punto said. “Nick would. I’m a good guy. The Shredder, not so much.”
Kimbrel leads the majors with 43 saves but he got his first blown save since June 14. He had worked 38 consecutive scoreless outings covering 37 2-3 innings, allowing 14 hits and 11 walks with 67 strikeouts.
Michael Bourn(notes) matched his career best with four hits and an RBI for the Braves, who also got RBI doubles from Brian McCann(notes) and Freddie Freeman(notes) in the first inning. Chipper Jones(notes) was robbed his first two trips by Berkman’s outstanding running catch at the track in right in the first inning and second baseman Skip Schumaker’s leaping grab of a liner in the third. Jones singled in the seventh.
“That was great against a tough left-handed pitcher,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Get a triple and get another run, so you feel good.
“But again, you can’t run out the clock. You’ve got to throw it over the plate and get the last out and we just didn’t do that today.”
Randall Delgado(notes) was the fourth straight rookie starter for Atlanta and gave up a run and three hits in five innings in his fourth career start. He followed Greg Beachy, Mike Minor(notes) and Julio Teheran(notes) in the rotation for the Braves, who are without Tommy Hanson(notes) (right shoulder tendinitis) and Jair Jurrjens(notes) (straight right knee).
Linebrink has allowed six runs in 5 2-3 innings since coming off the disabled list from a lower back strain on Aug 14.
Edwin Jackson(notes) shut down the Braves his last five innings, although Atlanta left the bases loaded in the fourth. Rafael Furcal(notes) had three walks and a hit, and he was thrown out at second to end the seventh after trying for the extra base on a single after pinch-runner Tyler Greene(notes) drew a throw to third.
Holliday and Pujols grounded into double plays to boost the Cardinals’ major league-leading total to 154, 12 shy of matching their own NL record set in 1958. Pujols leads the majors with 28 and Holliday is second in the NL with 20, one more than teammate Yadier Molina(notes).
NOTES: Freeman has 150 hits, most by a Braves rookie since 1969, and before the game he led NL rookies in average, hits, RBIs and doubles. … Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has said he’d like to get Greene several starts at SS, but not until Furcal cools down. Furcal has had success against the Braves’ next two starters, going 6 for 17 with a homer and three RBIs against Derek Lowe(notes) and 7 for 19 with a homer against Tim Hudson(notes). … The Cardinals are averaging 6.04 runs for Jaime Garcia(notes) (11-7, 3.65), highest in the NL, entering Saturday’s matchup against Lowe (9-13, 4.65). … La Russa caught the last half-hour of Carlos Santana’s(notes) concert in St. Louis on Wednesday and went on stage to shake maracas on one song. “Really tough. Keep the beat, smile,” he said.