Albert Pujols started this season in one of the worst slumps of his career.
He has started June once again looking like one of the most-feared hitters in baseball.Pujols, who has homered in each of his last four games, looks to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a sixth straight win over the Houston Astros for the first time in 15 years on Wednesday night.Through the first nine games of the season, Pujols was batting .143 with a homer -- his lone extra-base hit -- and four RBIs. The three-time NL MVP has steadily come around for the NL Central-leading Cardinals (37-25), and is now locked in at the plate.In Tuesday's 7-4 win over the Astros -- the fourth straight for St. Louis -- Pujols hit his 14th homer, his fifth in the last four games. This is the first time the nine-time All-Star has homered in four consecutive games since Aug. 17-22, 2007, when he homered in a career-best five in a row."Pujols is a great ball player," Tony La Russa said. "He does great things."Pujols is batting .419 with six home runs, 11 RBIs and 12 runs in his last eight games, raising his average 21 points to a season-best .278. He is hitting .250 with a pair of doubles in 20 career at-bats against scheduled starter Bud Norris (3-4, 3.95 ERA).Pujols wasn't the only St. Louis slugger to homer Tuesday, as former Astro Lance Berkman hit his 13th. In five games against his former team this season, Berkman is 9 for 18 with three homers, two doubles and nine RBIs.St. Louis has won five straight in this series, and hasn't won six consecutive games over Houston since reeling off seven in a row from May 20-Aug. 23, 1996.The Astros (23-38) have lost four straight games following a season-best four-game winning streak.They've plated 10 runs during their skid while batting .125 with runners in scoring position and leaving 38 men on base. Houston stranded 13 runners and twice left the bases loaded Tuesday."We got that many opportunities, we've got to try to seize the moment," Michael Bourn saidHunter Pence struck out with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning, but also singled twice to extend his career-best hitting streak to 18 games. He is batting .390 with 13 RBIs during his run.Pence homered off scheduled starter Jaime Garcia (6-1, 3.05) on April 26. The left-hander allowed four runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings of a 6-5 loss but didn't factor in the decision.Against Chicago on Friday, Garcia gave up one run and four hits while striking out eight in eight innings of a 6-1 win. It was his first start since getting tagged for career worsts of 12 runs and 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 15-4 loss in Colorado on May 28.In his only other start against the Astros on Aug. 3, Garcia yielded eight runs -- four earned -- and 10 hits in five innings of an 18-4 loss.This will be Norris' third start of the season against St. Louis. He gave up three runs -- all unearned -- in six innings against the Cardinals at home on April 26 and permitted five runs in five innings in a 5-1 loss at Busch Stadium on May 18. In eight career starts against St. Louis, the right-hander is 5-2 with a 2.66 ERA.In San Diego on Thursday, Norris gave up four runs and six hits in six innings of a 7-4 win, his first victory since May 1, against Milwaukee.