Flushing, NY – Joel Pineiro the St. Louis Cardinals right handed pitcher and Johan Santana who had been perfect in three games against St. Louis should have been the story Tuesday evening at Citi Field. They would not figure in the final outcome but the bat of Albert Pujols did.
There was Pujols, in the Cardinals clubhouse after his ninth multi home run game of the season that included a 10th inning grand slam home run. It was his fifth grand slam this season, 11th of his career off Mets relief pitcher Sean Green. In the eighth inning, Pujols hit his 35th homer off Santana that narrowed the Cards deficit to 7-5.
But the media surrounding Pujols wanted to know more about the 0-for-13 slump before his four hit-five RBI game that included a single and double. “I didn’t change my approach,” commented Pujols, when asked about his supposed problems at the plate. The questions continued and another side of Pujols appeared.
A four-time NL Most Valuable Player award recipient from the Latino Sports writers and Broadcast Association, Pujols, always receptive to the media, showed another side of his competitive spirit. He was very defensive and made it known. It is about winning, a team effort, and even the best, as he is, are bound to have some bad days at the plate.
“As long as you get quality at bats at the end of the day something is going to happen,” he said. The questions were repetitive and Pujols would get impatient. The National League home run leader with 36 and in RBI with 97 defended himself. His team in a first place battle with Chicago in the NL Central may have had their biggest comeback of the season, scoring eight times in the last three innings in a 12-7 10-inning win over New York.
He wanted to end the post game media session. The answers were abrupt. Pujols probably knew the questions were going to revolve around him, the mini slump, rather than how important this win was for the Cardinals.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said commenting about the win and not his power at the plate. “It’s not about Pineiro, or me, it’s about winning games. I don’t know why I have five grand slams. Its part of dedication and getting good swings,” he said.
The grand slam placed Pujols into a four-way tie for second on the list for most slams in a season, Former New York Yankee, Don Mattingly had six in 1987. His reference to starting pitcher starter Joel Pineiro was in regard to how his team was able to pick him up after he gave up seven runs.
“I’m human and not a machine,” said Pujols as the questions kept coming about his big night at Citi Field. A player of his magnitude, at times is always expected to get the big hit, have the multi home run game. So going hitless in 13 at bats and then having a night like he did can lead to questions. But they should not because Pujols is human and will have a brief slump or two during the course of a long season.
He has nothing to prove. His bat in the end will do the talking for him. “You guys know,” he said to the media. “I take the same swings that I have the past two weeks. I work hard. I’m ready every day. I didn’t put my head down. I don’t change myself and I don’t change my approach.”
Interesting to see what would have happened had the Cardinals lost in extra innings. Pujols would have been honest with his answers as he always is. And the answers would not have revolved around him. But give credit where it is due. He is perhaps the best players in the game and once in a while will have an off day or two.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com