ST. LOUIS — Albert Pujols whiffed on his first opportunity to get the St. Louis Cardinals going, striking out on three pitches against Roy Oswalt with two men on to end the fifth inning.
His next time up, he gave the team what it has come to expect: a go-ahead three-run home run in the seventh to lift the Cardinals over the Houston Astros 3-1 Monday.
“He amazes a lot of people, but to us, it’s just Albert,” closer Jason Isringhausen said. “We don’t know where we’d be without him.”
The Cardinals rallied after six fruitless innings against Oswalt, who was pitching in St. Louis for the first time since the Astros’ NL championship series clincher last fall. Jason Marquis worked seven strong innings for the NL Central leaders, who sent the Astros to their sixth loss in seven games.
“I got another chance, and I came through,” Pujols said. “That’s what it’s all about. Stay focused and get a good pitch to hit, and hopefully come through.”
Aaron Miles singled off Trever Miller (0-1) to start the seventh and John Rodriguez coaxed a full-count walk with two outs ahead of Pujols, who hit his major league-leading 25th home run off Chad Qualls on a 2-0 pitch.
Pujols also leads the majors with 64 RBIs. He’s the third-fastest to 25 home runs, reaching it in 51 games while Barry Bonds required 47 in 2001 and Mark McGwire needed 50 in 1998. He’s on pace for 79 home runs and 203 RBIs.
“I don’t concentrate on those numbers, I concentrate on making my plays and concentrate on coming through and winning some games,” Pujols said. “If you concentrate on RBIs, home runs, batting average, anything like that, you’re going to lose the focus you have.”