Albert Pujols came to bat in the fifth with two men on and the Cardinals trailing the Astros 1-0. The way Pujols has been driving in runs this year everyone would have to expect that he’d at least tie the game. Everyone would be wrong. Astros starter Roy Oswalt calmly defied reality and struck out Pujols on just three pitches.
Good thing for the Cardinals, lightning never strikes the same place twice. Two innings later, Pujols came back to the plate and made up for his earlier failures. With two-on and two-out again, Pujols jacked Chad Qualls 2-0 pitch over the left field fence to lift the Cardinals to a 3-1 win.
Pujols continues to put up astronomical numbers. His go-ahead homer in the seventh was his 25th and the three RBIs gave him 64 for the year. Most importantly for Pujols and the Cardinals is the timing of his explosions in the batter’s box. Of his 25 long balls, 11 of them have given the Cardinals the lead, and 16 of his RBIs have put them in front. He has driven in the game-winning run 13 times.
Jason Marquis struggled in the game, but always managed to bounce back. He gave up just one run on three hits in seven innings to get his fourth straight victory. Pujols isn’t the only Cardinal putting up league leading numbers. Jason Isringhausen pitched a scoreless ninth inning to get his National League best 17th save.
St. Louis was unable to muster up any offense before Pujols’ seventh inning redemption. Oswalt shut down the Cardinals giving up no runs on seven hits and striking out five in six innings.
The Cardinals are 33-18 and lead the Reds by five games for first place in the National League Central.