Pujols ruled out of opener at Chicago

ST. LOUIS -- Just as Albert Pujols was starting to hit his stride, he got hurt.

The St. Louis Cardinals first baseman left Sunday's game against the Houston Astros when he injured his left hamstring running the bases in the sixth inning.

Pujols, the only Cardinals player to start every game this season, will not play Monday night in the opener of a four-game series at Chicago. He is listed as day-to-day.

"I'd be very surprised if he's ready to go in the next couple of days maybe or even the whole series," manager Tony La Russa said Sunday. "If you told me right now he'd play next weekend, I'd take that immediately."

"We're looking at a couple of days for sure," Dr. George Paletta, the team physician, said.

Pujols has had at least four hits in three of his last nine
games, batting .559 during that stretch (19-for-34) with five
homers and 11 RBI. Overall he was tied for the major league lead
with 17 homers and was batting .325 with 40 RBI after a slow start.

"I'm a little disappointed, but what can you do?" Pujols said.
"It was a little tight [Sunday] but I stretched and did the same
routine I've been doing. When something is going to happen to you,
it's going to happen."

John Mabry, batting .333 with five RBI in 36
at-bats in his third stint with the Cardinals, will start at first base Monday night.

"We've got a good bench and we've got guys that can go out
there and probably not do the same job as I can do," Pujols said.
"But they can help our team win."

The Cardinals enter a seven-game trip having won nine of 11.

"He's a big part of our lineup," third baseman Scott Rolen
said. "But if he's not in there we can't hang our heads."

Pujols stopped while rounding second base on Jim Edmonds' single and then limped back to the bag. He was already walking off the field when Cardinals assistant trainer Mark O'Neal ran out to
attend to him.

"When I hit the bag I felt it get tight, and when I tried to
take another step I felt like I pulled it," Pujols said. "I was
in so much pain that I almost got thrown out at second."

Pujols has started all of the Cardinals' 56 games and has never
been on the disabled list in his four-year career. He averaged 158
games his first three seasons.

"I don't want to be the doctor here and I don't think even the
doctor knows what's going on," Pujols said. "He said we're going
to wait and see."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.