A fan holds a sign for Albert Pujols to read during the last regular season home game. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The moment was not lost on Cardinal fans. With a wild card berth hanging in the balance, the fans also realized that when Albert Pujols stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning, it could be the last time they see Pujols in a Cardinals uniform.

“We’ve been treated to 11 years of the best baseball in the history of our game,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “Our fans know it. I just hope they get to see him again, not just in 2012, but this year.”

Albert Pujols talks about fan reaction (1:00)

Not to look too far ahead, but the Cardinals are in a pretty good position for being one game in the wild card. The Atlanta Braves will take on their division leader Philadelphia while the Cardinals take on last place Houston. If both teams are even, the tie breaking game would take place Thursday at Busch Stadium, so there is a good chance Pujols could put on the home whites again this season.

Pujols tried not to look too far ahead, but he was touched by the fan reaction.

“It’s pretty emotional, obviously,” Pujols said. “You have the best fans in baseball; over 3 million people every year come and support this ballclub. Obviously, it’s not over. Our season’s not over. And I just want to make sure that I stay focused and do what I need to do.”

Pujols is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, and the Cardinals will still have time for exclusive negotiating time before free agency begins, but all signs point to Pujols testing the market.
“Those decisions are going to come, like I told you guys in Spring Training, in the offseason,” Pujols said. “Right now, I’m still a Cardinal. I’m going to do my best to help this organization to get to the next level, and that’s my job. If I try to get distracted, thinking about what’s going to happen this offseason, what’s going to happen the next four games, I don’t think I’m doing my job.”