ST. LOUIS — Now that his April drought is over, Albert Pujols says he was never worried about the unsightly numbers next to his name.
Pujols homered twice and had five RBIs, leading a 13-hit attack that helped the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 10-2 on Sunday. Afterward, he chided reporters for writing about his early woes.
“Obviously, this year hasn’t been working out early,” Pujols said. “But just because I haven’t found myself at the plate I don’t want to go crazy.”
Converted reliever Braden Looper was effective in his third straight start for the Cardinals, who had scored four runs during an 0-4 start at Busch Stadium. Their first home victory since beating the Tigers in Game 5 of the World Series came against Brewers ace Ben Sheets (1-2), who fell to 4-14 in 22 career starts against St. Louis.
“I don’t think I always struggle,” said Sheets, who has a 4.36 career ERA against the Cardinals. “I don’t come out on the winning end all the time, but I’ve had plenty of good games against these guys and I’ve had plenty of games like today against these guys.”
Pujols, who hit a major league-record 14 home runs last April, has three this month after lining a 2-0 Sheets fastball into the Brewers’ bullpen to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead in the first inning and then connecting off Elmer Dessens to start the eighth. Pujols entered the game batting .158 with two RBIs and left it with a .186 average after his 17th career multiple home run game.
“It’s a good day,” teammate Preston Wilson said. “Anytime you have a day where the superstar in your lineup kind of starts heating up, it makes the whole team feel good.”
Chris Duncan singled on a wind-blown infield pop-up in the first and singled again on a flare into shallow center in the third before homering in the fifth off the back of the Brewers’ bullpen in right to put the Cardinals ahead 5-2. He also singled in the sixth for a career-best four-hit game. He has six hits in the last two games.
Prince Fielder and Johnny Estrada drove in a run apiece in the first inning for the Brewers, who had won three in a row on the road to match their best streak from last season.
Looper (2-1) allowed two runs and five hits in six innings, and has won two of his first three major league starts after making 572 consecutive relief appearances. He settled down after allowing three hits in the first, including Fielder’s RBI double and Estrada’s run-scoring single, and added his first career RBI on an infield chopper in the fourth.
David Eckstein singled off the glove of diving third baseman Tony Graffanino to start the bottom of the first and Duncan singled on the infield pop that dropped to set the table for Pujols’ first homer in a week.
Preston Wilson reached on Graffanino’s throwing error to start the fourth and scored on Looper’s tapper in front of the plate for a 4-2 lead, and Duncan’s third homer made it 5-2 in the fifth.
The first four Cardinals reached safely in the sixth. After a single by Adam Kennedy and two walks, Sheets hit pinch hitter Scott Spiezio with the bases loaded. That chased Sheets, whose start was pushed back two days after he warmed up before Friday night’s game was postponed by rain.
“That’s a real nice excuse but no, we’re not going to use that and Benny won’t use it, either,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “He was just kind of fighting himself all day.”
Sheets gave up eight runs, seven earned, and eight hits in five-plus innings. His 14 losses against St. Louis are six more than he has against any other opponent.