Pujols finally has his MVP -- from NLCS

Friday, October 22, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- At last, Albert Pujols is second to no one.

Runnerup in National League Most Valuable Player voting the last two seasons, Pujols was an obvious choice as MVP of the NL Championship Series after the St. Louis Cardinals' clinching 5-2 Game 7 victory Thursday night over the Houston Astros.

He tied the game with an RBI double that punctured the mystique of 42-year-old Astros ace Roger Clemens in the sixth inning and scored the eventual winning run when Scott Rolen drove the next pitch over the left-field wall.

Down 1-2 in the count against Clemens, Pujols drove a fastball down the left-field line to score Roger Cedeno with the tying run.

The Cardinals, who won a major league-best 105 games this year and now will play in their first World Series in 17 years, were used to such clutch work.

Pujols hit .500 (14-for-28) in the NLCS with four homers and a team-leading nine RBIs.

In Game 6, he had a homer, double and single, scored three times and drove in two runs to help the Cardinals right themselves after losing three straight in Houston.

He also had three hits and three RBIs in Game 4, including a two-run homer, and was 3-for-4 with another homer in Game 2. He tacked on a single for good measure in the eighth inning of the decisive Game 7.

It was nothing unusual for the 2001 NL rookie of the year and 2003 NL batting champion.

Year after year, Pujols has put up gaudy numbers. He's the third player to reach 500 RBIs in his first four seasons, joining Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, and he's the first player to start his career with four consecutive 30-homer seasons.

In spring training he became the highest-paid player in franchise history with a seven-year, $100 million contract, and he went on to hit .331 with 46 homers and 123 RBIs.

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