Pujols hit his 37th home run and reached 100 runs for the seventh time in his first eight seasons in an 8-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night. Todd Wellemeyer pitched into the seventh inning and Troy Glaus' two-run homer left him two RBIs shy of 100 for the Cardinals, who have won five straight.
If not for an early-September slump, the Cardinals could have been right in the thick of the pennant race.
"We really had a discouraging first couple of weeks," manager Tony La Russa said, recalling the Cardinals' 6-13 start to September that knocked them out of the NL wild-card race. "Instead of throwing the last two weeks away, they've showed how competitive they are."
Felipe Lopez also homered for St. Louis, which has taken 11 of its last 13 at home against the Reds. The Cardinals (85-76) are four games behind the Mets and Brewers, the two NL wild-card hopefuls.
Pujols entered the night with seven straight hits, and had reached base in 11 straight plate appearance, not counting a sacrifice fly on Thursday. He was hitless his first three at-bats Saturday before lining a ball over the left field wall off Jon Adkins in the seventh.
Pujols, whose .356 average is second in the majors, is the only player in major league history with 30 homers and 100 RBIs each of his first eight seasons. He finished with 99 runs last year, his only sub-100 season.
"Albert, he gets on base, he finishes rallies," La Russa said. "He's the whole deal."
Aaron Harang (6-17) allowed six runs -- four earned -- in five innings to end a late-season run of six quality starts in seven outings. A 16-game winner each of the previous two seasons, Harang allowed 35 homers on the year -- one behind Brandon Backe of Houston for the major league high, and matched his loss total from 2006-07.
"It's been one of those seasons where it seems like nothing's really gone my way," Harang said. "It's definitely not the way I wanted to finish up."
Wellemeyer (13-9) ended a three-game losing streak and finished his first full season in the rotation on a positive note, allowing three runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. He added his fifth RBI of the season on an infield hit in the fourth.
"One hundred ninety innings or whatever I threw, I haven't thrown that many I don't think ever," Wellemeyer said. "I'm glad I finished strong and healthy."
Glaus hit his 26th homer in the second and singled in the fifth, and is 7-for-17 in the first five games of the final homestand. Two RBIs in the finale would mean a fifth career 100-RBI season.
"It would be nice, but that's not how I gauge my season," Glaus said. "That's just not how I play."
Lopez' sixth homer barely cleared the left-field wall down the third-base line in the third. He's batting .383 in September and .377 since signing with the Cardinals in early August after being released by the Nationals.
Paul Bako had two hits and an RBI for the Reds, who got four hits, a walk and a sacrifice from the bottom three in the order. Shortstop Jeff Keppinger's two-out fielding error led to two unearned runs in the fourth.
Both benches briefly cleared after the Cardinals' Jason LaRue went well out of the baseline to try to break up a double play to end the eighth. Second baseman Jerry Hairston yelled at LaRue as he trotted off the field and LaRue had to be restrained by teammates from going after Hairston, and Hairston answered in the ninth with a two-run homer off Chris Perez.
"I came up as a second baseman and I don't remember anyone sliding into the grass," Hairston said. "Evidently, he's got a problem with me. I just asked him, like 'What?'"
The Cardinals named outfielder Daryl Jones, who batted .316 with 13 homers, 24 steals and a .407 on-base percentage at the Class A and AA level, their minor league player of the year. RHP Jess Todd, 22, climbed three levels in his second professional season and was a combined 8-6 with a 2.88 ERA. ... Cardinals C Mark Johnson left the game after getting hit in the mask on Joey Votto's backswing on a grounder to end the fifth. La Russa took Johnson out when trainers asked about the last pitch he called and he couldn't recall.