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Monday, May 25, 2009
Updated: May 28, 2:33 AM ET
Pujols starting to get Bonds-style treatment

ESPN.com

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

Albert Pujols needs his teammates to step up so pitchers can't avoid him.

By Orel Hershiser, ESPN

The St. Louis Cardinals have won six of their past eight games, but they've done it with only three RBIs from Albert Pujols. King Albert is not in a slump, exactly. Teams are just not pitching to him. Without injured hitters Troy Glaus, Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel, the Cardinals aren't able to keep teams honest. Chris Duncan and Colby Rasmus just don't demand the same respect at this point in their careers.

The Cards' pitching has carried the team through this recent stretch, but I can't help but wonder how long they can keep this up. Eventually, the lineup will have to start winning some games for them. During the past 10 games, they've scored only 28 runs and have only 81 runs in May, the fewest in the National League. The team has been able to weather this storm thus far, but if teams can afford to pitch to everyone in the Cardinals' lineup but Pujols, they will have problems sooner or later.

If teams are able to avoid pitching to Pujols, they will. If I were facing the Cardinals' lineup, he wouldn't get anything to hit. Even with men on first and second, I'd consider third base open and still probably pitch around him. That's how good a hitter he is.

He has put up some sterling statistics in his career, but without much protection in the lineup, even future Hall of Famers' numbers can start to suffer. His on-base percentage is still sky high. Before Tuesday, he had been walked twice in each of the last four games. That had been the longest streak since Barry Bonds. He is starting to receive the Bonds/Mark McGwire treatment and his RBI totals are down this year.

Teams are smart to pitch around him, but even with that, he's good enough that sometimes all he needs is an opposing pitcher to make one mistake in order to get a hit. He also can be productive on balls that are not strikes. He can turn on the ball that's inside, off the plate, and he can reach outside breaking balls as well. I've also noticed that he still seems engaged on every pitch, whereas Bonds, when he was being pitched around constantly, seemed resigned to the fact and practically had his armor off by the time the count was 2-0.

One interesting effect of all his walks is that he is on pace to fly past his single-season career high in stolen bases (16 in 2005). That may be a function of his frustration at the plate, figuring that he'll turn a walk into a double and make teams pay for ducking him.

Although Glaus might not return any time soon, the Cards expect to get back Ludwick and Ankiel at some point in the near future. Both those guys are capable of hitting behind Pujols in the batting order, and manager Tony La Russa will go with whoever is swinging the hot bat. Another thing La Russa has done, and may continue to do from time to time, is hit his pitcher eighth in the lineup to get another bona fide hitter ahead of Pujols as the Cards get into the game. That's a tactic that gives them a better chance to have him at the plate with men on base and get him more pitches to hit.

If St. Louis doesn't have success with Ludwick and Ankiel, it may need to go after a bat in the trade market, but in the meantime, I don't expect many pitchers to challenge Pujols in a close game unless they really have no other choice.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: May 25 | May 24 | May 21 | May 20 | May 19

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
A. Dunn, Was15NYMHernandezTop 7: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
G. Sheffield, NYM5WasBergmannBot 7: 1-1, 0 Outs. 2 on.
A. Wainwright, StL1MilSuppanTop 4: 0-0, 2 Outs. None on.
C. Pena, TB16ClePavanoTop 7: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
J. Morneau, Min14BosLesterBot 5: 1-0, 2 Outs. 2 on.
M. Teixeira, NYY14TexMillwoodTop 5: 0-0, 2 Outs. None on.
B. Abreu, LAA1CWSColonBot 7: 1-2, 0 Outs. None on.
C. Davis, Tex11NYYChamberlainBot 4: 0-1, 0 Outs. None on.
C. Davis, Tex12NYYCokeBot 8: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Tuesday's homers

ON DECK: WEDNESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:35 p.m. ET

If anyone is going to stop the Blue Jays' eight-game skid, it's Roy Halladay. In fact, he's about the only Toronto pitcher who hasn't lost recently -- he's 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA in May. He'll go for his major league-leading ninth win against Orioles lefty Rich Hill (1-0, 3.18 ERA).

Tigers at Royals, 2:10 p.m. ET

Rick Porcello has been a great story. The 20-year-old rookie right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA in May. He'll pitch the rubber game of the series against the Royals' Kyle Davies (2-3, 4.78 ERA), whose last win came on April 30.

Braves at Giants, 10:10 p.m. ET

Randy Johnson makes his third attempt at career win No. 299. In his last start the Big Unit got a no-decision, although he allowed only one run in 5 1/3 innings at Seattle. Meanwhile, Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami is coming off a three-hit shutout over eight innings against Toronto.

For the rest of Wednesday's schedule, click here.

BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips, Chris Singleton
1:20 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Steve Phillips, Chris Singleton

3 SWINGS: GREINKE, LIVAN, CUBS

INSIDE EDGE

Who's had the most effective slider so far in 2009? Inside Edge tracks the top and bottom 10 pitchers in terms of their opponents' batting average against their slider.

Top 10 Pitchers: Opp. BA vs. Slider
Minimum: 61 sliders thrown. League average BA is .223.
Josh Outman, OAK .000
Ubaldo Jimenez, COL .043
Lance Cormier, TAM .048
Chris Young, SDG .051
Luis Ayala, MIN .056
Chris Carpenter, STL .059
Brandon McCarthy, TEX .071
Jorge Julio, MIL .074
Chris Sampson, HOU .083
Jonathan Broxton, LAD .086
Bottom 10 Pitchers: Opp. BA vs. Slider
Chris Ray, BAL .381
D.J. Carrasco, CHW .381
B.J. Ryan, TOR .389
Matt Belisle, COL .389
John Grabow, PIT .400
Vicente Padilla, TEX .421
Kip Wells, WAS .429
Matt Harrison, TEX .429
Andy Sonnanstine, TAM .462
Mike Hampton, HOU .500

WEB GEMS

TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Wainwright• There were several quality pitching efforts Tuesday, but Adam Wainwright did it with his arm and the bat. The Cardinals right-hander struck out nine in seven innings and gave up only five hits, and he hit a solo home run in an 8-1 victory over Milwaukee.
WORST
Batista• Things were going well for the Mariners. Jarrod Washburn pitched six scoreless innings, and Seattle had a 3-0 lead. But then Miguel Batista relieved Washburn in the seventh and proceeded to give up four runs on two hits and two walks as the A's rallied for a 4-3 victory.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Blue Jays The Toronto Blue Jays are 27-22 and have fallen to third in the AL East because of an eight-game losing skid. The pitching staff has been strong (its 4.11 ERA is fourth in the American League), but the offense has struggled. During their eight-game losing streak, the Blue Jays have averaged only 1.6 runs per game and hit .143 with runners in scoring position.

The Blue Jays' batting average has dropped significantly -- especially versus the first pitch and when they get ahead of the pitcher.

First 41 games Last 8 games
Record 27-14 0-7
Runs per game 5.7 1.6
BA vs. first pitch .309 .294
BA when pitcher behind .330 .293
BA with RISP .302 .143
Who's cold: Adam Lind .129, BB, 7 K in eight-game losing streak (.373, 9 BB, 8 K in first 41 games).

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Tristan Cockcroft examines the 15 games on Wednesday's slate. Cockcroft ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Wednesday. Daily Notes

Fantasy