- Gene Wojciechowski, Senior Writer
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And I quote:
THREE consecutive and historic home runs a bruised concrete facade six RBIs five hits 14 total bases and a Cardinals 16-7 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Everybody get that, or does Pujols need to repeat himself?
"It was one of those nights,'' said longtime Cardinals teammate Chris Carpenter. "It was an Albert Pujols night, that no matter what happens, he's going to smash the ball somewhere.''
"I'm not amazed,'' said the Cards' Lance Berkman. "I've seen it too many times. He's just the greatest.''
Not amazed? Then Berkman needs a baseball history lesson because he's never seen this before.
Those 14 total bases? A World Series first.
Hits in four consecutive innings? A World Series record.
Those three dingers? Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson are the only other players to have hit three home runs in a World Series game.
Afterward, in the interview room, Pujols was asked a question in Spanish. Pujols answered and then translated.
"He said, 'How does it feel to be in the same category of Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth?''' said Pujols. "I just told him it's pretty special. Those guys are great players and to do it at that level and on this stage is amazing.''
The Cardinals now have a one-game advantage in this World Series and they can thank Pujols for a large chunk of the win. He always plays with white-hot intensity, but the events of the last several days seemed to increase his focus.
Pujols was ripped, legitimately so, for stiffing the media two nights earlier. He had botched a cut-off throw and the error had helped cost the Cardinals the game. He and three other St. Louis players left the clubhouse that night without conducting any interviews.
When questioned about it Friday, a defiant Pujols had said, "To try to rip somebody's reputation for something like this I don't think is fair.''
Great players get their motivation from wherever they can find it. Pujols said there was no connection between the medium-sized -- and preventable -- no-talk controversy and his three-homer night. Hmmm. It couldn't have been a total coincidence, could it?
"What can I say?'' said Pujols. "To tell you the truth, I just come in and get ready to play.''
Or as Berkman put it: "I don't think he was criticized for his hitting.''
Well played, sir.
Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire could see the possibilities hours earlier during batting practice. Pujols was squaring every BP pitch on the fat part of the barrel.
"My swing feels so good,'' Pujols said during the pregame session.
"Albert,'' said McGwire, "it just comes down to if you get pitches to hit.''
He got them. After a groundout to third in the first inning, Pujols singled in the fourth and fifth innings. Then in the sixth, he drove an Alexi Ogando fastball so far that it qualified for frequent flier miles. The home run caromed off the concrete facing just below the Club Level seats in left field -- a distance, according to ESPN's tracking numbers, of 431 feet. It seemed farther.
The three-run homer turned a two-run game into an 11-6 Cardinals lead.
Rangers reliever Mike Gonzalez can tell his relatives he's the guy who gave up Pujols' second home run of the night -- a first-pitch fastball that landed in the left-center-field seats. By then, St. Louis led 14-6 in the seventh inning.
Pujols' swing was so ridiculously perfect Saturday night that cleanup hitter Matt Holliday, who follows Pujols in the Cardinals' order, actually predicted the third dinger. Holliday was scheduled to hit fourth in the top of the ninth inning, but he told Berkman, "Well, I know I'm getting my sixth at-bat for sure because Albert will probably hit another home run.''
McGwire had a feeling, too. He saw Rangers left-hander Darren Oliver warming up in the bullpen and said to himself, "He's got a little cutter that falls right into where Albert likes it.''
I've learned it over 11 years with Albert. He will probably think about this and enjoy it -- and he should. If you see him tomorrow, you would never, ever suspect that he did this.
”-- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa
On a 2-2 pitch, Oliver threw that little cutter. And Pujols vaporized it over the left-field wall. When he returned to the St. Louis dugout, he got the playful silent treatment.
Either that, or the Cardinals were in shock.
"Albert couldn't do anything wrong tonight,'' said Carpenter.
Pujols didn't gloat. Not his style. He didn't refer to himself as the straw that stirs the Cardinals' drink.
"To tell you the truth, I won't lie: I don't concentrate on numbers,'' said Pujols
OK, we will then. The Cardinals have a 2-1 Series lead, have a locked-in Pujols and have a less-taxed bullpen. If you're the Rangers, you can't feel very good about that combo platter of St. Louis advantages.
And here's the scary part.
"I'll tell you -- and it's a real good P.S. to this -- and I've learned it over 11 years with Albert,'' said La Russa. "He will probably think about this and enjoy it -- and he should. If you see him tomorrow, you would never, ever suspect that he did this tonight. He will be into his routine, getting ready. He is so strong in his mind, and we'll see.''
Game 4 tip to the Rangers: If you overhear Pujols telling McGwire that his swing feels good again, prepare for the worst.
Or history again.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.
2hMichael C. Wright