Pujols awesome; Brewer rotation in trouble
October, 11, 2011
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
Jerry Lai/US PresswireAlbert Pujols' big night lifts the Cardinals as St. Louis ties up the NLCS at 1-1.You know you had a pretty good night when the opposing fans give an emphatic ovation when their team finally gets you out.
Albert Pujols' final box-score line read like this: 5 at-bats, 3 runs, 4 hits, 5 RBIs.
Only five players in postseason history had accumulated at least three runs, four hits and five RBIs in a postseason game: Hideki Matsui of the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, Carlos Beltran of the Astros in the 2004 NLDS, Adam Kennedy of the Angels in the 2002 ALCS, Will Clark of the Giants in the 1989 NLCS, and Bob Robertson of the Pirates in the 1971 NLCS. With three doubles and a home run, Pujols became just the fourth player to record four extra-base hits in a postseason game, joining Matsui, Robertson and Frank Isbell (of course!) of the 1906 White Sox. Only once before in his career had Pujols recorded four extra-base hits in a game: three home runs and a double in a 5-for-5 game against the Cubs in 2004. That game was also only one of three times in his career Pujols had posted a line with at least three runs, four hits and five RBIs; amazingly, these Brewers had seen it before, since Pujols did it on Sept. 1.
So, yes, Albert Pujols had a game for the ages, even for Albert Pujols. Considering he had entered the game with just one RBI in six postseason games, I guess you could say he was due. (Although he did have a four-hit game against the Phillies, making him just the third player with two four-hit games in one postseason, joining George Brett and Robin Yount.) Of course, isn't Pujols always due?
The Cardinals did what they had to do. They earned a split in Milwaukee with Monday night's 12-3 win, and now they head home for Game 3 with ace Chris Carpenter on the hill. If you believe in things like momentum in baseball, it shifts slightly to St. Louis. And if you don't believe in such things, the discussion shifts to how the Brewers will hit and pitch away from the friendly confines of Miller Park. The Cardinals' 17 hits were the most in a postseason game since the Red Sox also lashed out 17 in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series against the Rockies. Brewers fan will argue about Rickie Weeks beating out the inning-ending double play ball in the fifth (Sam Holbrook missed the call) that would have made the score 7-3 and kept the inning going. But I don't think that would have changed the outcome of this blowout.
Five things to take away from this game:
1. Shaun Marcum was terrible again. He isn't fooling anyone and looks gassed. Over his past six starts, including two in the playoffs, he has pitched 33 innings, allowed 46 hits and 31 runs. He has just 19 strikeouts and has served up seven home runs. At this point, Chris Narveson may be a better option than Marcum in Game 6, if the series goes that far. Aside from Yovani Gallardo -- who faces Carpenter in Game 3 -- the Milwaukee rotation has been shaky, as Marcum, Zack Greinke and Randy Wolf have combined for just 22.2 innings in their five starts, while allowing 29 runs.
2. With eight relievers, Tony La Russa won't hesitate to start matching up early in the game. No surprise there, but he yanked Edwin Jackson with one out in the fifth inning, two runners on and a 7-2 lead. That was mildly surprising, even if it was bringing in Arthur Rhodes to face Prince Fielder. I'm sure in the back of his mind was the home run Ryan Howard hit in the sixth inning off Kyle Lohse in Game 1 of the NLDS. La Russa isn't going to let Prince beat a right-handed pitcher not named Carpenter or Jason Motte in a key moment in the middle innings. The fact that Milwaukee's lineup is so right-handed heavy makes it easy for La Russa to save Rhodes and Marc Rzepczynski exclusively for Fielder.
3. David Freese hit another home run, his third of the postseason, late in the game off Narveson. He doesn't get much recognition in a lineup with Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday, but he hit .297 with 10 home run in 97 games. He's a good, under-appreciated hitter. If he remains in a groove, the St. Louis lineup is deeper than the Milwaukee lineup.
4. The Cardinals got Ryan Braun out twice!
5. Game 3 is always a big game, but with the suddenly shaky state of the Brewers' rotation, it looms as a huge game for the Brewers. It will be a battle of two pitchers with great curveballs. I can't wait.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.