Cards close season with five-game winning streak

Monday, October 4, 2010
Cardinals catcher Matt Pagnozzi and Colby Rasmus celebrate the Cardinals' season-ending 6-1 victory Sunday against the Rockies in St. Louis. (BILL BOYCE ~ Associated Press)

Pujols finished as the NL leader in both home runs and RBIs

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was in a rare joking mood following his team's 6-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.

When asked if he would return for a 16th season at the helm in St. Louis, the usually serious La Russa delivered a classic deadpan response.

"I talked to the players. The young guys wanted me back, the veterans wanted someone else," he said with a straight face.

La Russa plans to meet with general manager John Mozeliak and team chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. today to discuss his future.

Jeff Suppan threw six scoreless innings and Matt Pagnozzi drove in two runs, helping the Cardinals close the season with their fifth straight victory.

Meanwhile, Colorado ended the year with eight losses in a row. After an early September surge brought them to within one game of the NL West lead, the Rockies lost 13 of 14.

The Cardinals, who missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, held Colorado scoreless for a stretch of 30 1/3 innings on their way to sweeping the four-game series. Dexter Fowler broke the skid, the sixth-longest in the majors this year, with an eighth-inning home run.

Suppan (3-8) allowed five hits and improved to 7-2 against the Rockies. He struck out five and walked one, fanning three batters in his final inning.

"It's always nice to end with a win," Suppan said. "I felt like I made a lot of improvement as the season went along."

St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols went 0 for 2 and finished the season with an NL-high 118 RBIs, one more than Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who did not play Sunday.

Pujols drew a leadoff walk in the sixth and was promptly removed from the game for pinch-runner Allen Craig. Pujols received a standing ovation from the crowd and came out of the dugout to acknowledge the support. It was the first RBI crown for Pujols, who also led the NL with 42 home runs.

"It was pretty special," Pujols said. "That's the way our fans are. They were here supporting us even though we were out of the playoffs. Those are memories you take with you and you never forget until the day you die."

Pujols has had at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and batted .300 or above in 10 successive seasons, a major league record.

Gonzalez, slowed by wrist and thumb injuries down the stretch, completed with the season with an NL-best .336 batting average.

"I feel really proud of myself because I knew that I did something that's not easy to do," Gonzalez said. "I feel very happy, very blessed."

Matt Holliday went 0 for 3 and finished with a .3121 average to edge Pujols (.31178) for tops on the team. Pujols led the club in hitting in each of the previous nine seasons. Holliday was removed before the seventh to loud applause.

The Cardinals got four successive hits off starter Esmail Rogers (2-3) to begin the fourth inning. Pagnozzi and Brendan Ryan each drove in a run to push the lead to 4-0.

Pagnozzi added an RBI single in the seventh.

St. Louis scored a pair of unearned runs in the third on errors by infielders Clint Barmes and Chris Nelson on the same play.

Colorado's two-week slide put a damper on a late-season charge that brought the club from 11 games out on Aug. 22 to within one game of the division lead on Sept. 18. Rockies manager Jim Tracy said he saw a lot of positives in the comeback.

"It's tough to end the season in the manner in which we did," he said. "But us going home with a winning record -- there's something to be said for that."

Rogers allowed two earned runs in four innings.

NOTES: Holliday was 19 for 39 with seven home runs and 13 RBIs this season against Colorado and Oakland, his former teams. ... Gonzalez went hitless in his last 12 at-bats. ... The Rockies finished 35-23 in day games, the best percentage in the NL. ... St. Louis manager Tony La Russa will celebrate his 66th birthday on Monday. ... The game drew a crowd of 42,409, giving the Cardinals an average of 40,756 this season, fourth-best in the majors. St. Louis sold out 27 of 81 home games. ... OF Jon Jay became the 26th St. Louis rookie to finish with a .300 average or above. Jay finished right at .300. Pujols was the previous rookie to do it with a .329 mark in 2001.

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