Pujols sets April mark
Sunday, April 30, 2006
ST. LOUIS -- Leading off the eighth inning in a tie game, Albert Pujols was just trying to get something started.
Instead, he made history.
Pujols set a major league record with his 14th homer in April, sending the Cardinals to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa appreciated the timing of Pujols' shot. After National League Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter and All-Star Livan Hernandez locked up in a pitchers' duel, Pujols broke a 1-1 tie when he connected off Jon Rauch (0-1).
"It's always a thrill to see history," La Russa said. "But to see it in a game situation like that adds a little more to the story we're all going to tell some time."
Jason Isringhausen walked the bases loaded in the ninth before retiring Nick Johnson on a comebacker for the save.
Jose Guillen homered for the Nationals.
Pujols had been tied with Ken Griffey Jr. (1997) and Luis Gonzalez (2001) for the most home runs in April at 13. The St. Louis slugger greeted Rauch by driving a 2-1 pitch an estimated 411 feet into the Cardinals' right-field bullpen for his major league-leading 32nd RBI, matching the team record for April set by Mark McGwire in 1998.
"I made a bad pitch and he hit it," Rauch said. "That's what he does. ... It was a bad location. It came back over the plate, right in the zone where he can hit it."
Pujols said he isn't concerned with individual achievements.
"I don't play for records -- I play to win games," he said. "It definitely was good today to hit it and at the same time to win the game."
And he is ready to turn the calendar.
"We have another month after tomorrow," Pujols said. "Hopefully, we'll get 16 more wins."
Johnson finished 0-for-5, dropping his batting average to .352. Isringhausen earned his seventh save in nine opportunities.
"I think what's great about it is you got Johnson, who's having a great year and hit the ball hard all day long, and he just kept his composure," La Russa said. "In that situation, you make one good pitch and the game is over. But you can't get careless."
Braden Looper (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. The Cardinals set a club record for victories in April with 16.
"I made it interesting," Isringhausen said, "but at least there's a zero on the board."
Pujols and the rest of the St. Louis hitters were stymied by Hernandez. He allowed just three hits and one unearned run in seven innings.
Carpenter gave up nine hits in seven innings but only one run. The right-hander, who struck out three and walked one, has allowed just four earned runs in his last 35 innings.
"I did what I had to do to keep our team in the game," Carpenter said.
The Cardinals broke on top 1-0 with an unearned run in the first. With one out, Juan Encarnacion singled up the middle and advanced to second when Guillen dropped Pujols' fly to right for an error. Encarnacion scored on a sacrifice fly by Scott Spiezio.
Guillen, who snapped an 0-for-14 skid with a single leading off the second, tied the score in the fourth with a homer to left.
* The Nationals franchise hasn't won a season series against St. Louis since 1999, when the Expos took five of nine meetings.
* Right-handed pitcher Zach Day, acquired on waivers Wednesday from Colorado, will start for the Nationals on Sunday.
* St. Louis' previous record of 15 wins in April was set last year.
* Shortstop David Eckstein and Pujols are the only Cardinals to start every game.
* St. Louis pitcher Jason Marquis was presented with his 2005 Silver Slugger Award before the game.
* Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is hitless in the series (0-for-11).