Pujols answers critics with epic night

Chris Ruddick,
MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Nobody had a rougher off day on Friday than Albert Pujols.

Not only did he had to live with the fact that it was his error in the ninth inning in Thursday's Game 2 that helped the Texas Rangers even the series, but he took a tremendous amount of heat from the media for his refusal to talk about it after the loss.

Plus the Cardinals didn't make it any easier for him, as they went out of their way to defend their superstar, actually making it worse for him in the process.

Well I'm sure Pujols had no trouble talking after Saturday's 16-7 Game 3 victory, as the three-time NL MVP put on a show for the ages, joining Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players in baseball history to hit three home runs in a World Series contest.
Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series contest.

"Those guys are great players," Pujols said, "and to do it at that level and on this stage is amazing. But ... at the same time, I didn't walk into the ballpark today thinking that I was going to have a night like this. I walked to the ballpark with the attitude that I have every day -- to help this ballclub to win, and I was able to do that, defensively and offensively."

Pujols, who didn't have a hit in the first two games of this series, smacked a three-run homer off Alexi Ogando in the sixth inning and a two-run shot off Mike Gonzalez in the seventh. With two outs in the ninth, Pujols then took a Darren Oliver fastball over the wall in left field.

"All you try and do is just put a good swing," Pujols said of the final homer. "Don't try to expand the strike zone, and hopefully let the barrel of the bat catch the ball and maybe go out of the park. But I wasn't thinking about it."

The five hits and six RBI by Pujols also matched a World Series record.

"I felt that I swung the bat pretty good the last couple of games and...that's the way baseball goes," Pujols said. "It is what it is, and you just have to make sure you don't get frustrated and just make sure that you bounce back the next day, that whatever it takes our ballclub to win. Obviously it's a blessing to be able to do that today.

Of course, an underlying storyline in this series is Pujols' pending free agency. When push comes to shove I expect him to stay in St. Louis, but nights like Saturday remind us just how important he is to this team. What is already expected to be an exorbitant price tag, however, may have just been raised.

Lost in Pujols' tremendous night, though, was an absolute blown call by first base umpire Ron Kulpa which opened the floodgates for the Cardinals, who led 1-0 at the time.

Pujols singled to open the inning, but Matt Holliday appeared to have hit into a double play, but Kulpa called Holliday safe at first even though first baseman Mike Napoli clearly applied the tag in time. Kulpa admitted after the game that he made a mistake.

"We're human, he's human," Napoli said. "People make mistakes."

St. Louis went on to score four times in the fourth, three in the fifth, four in the sixth and twice in the seventh to become the first team in Fall Classic history with four straight multi-run innings.

Can the Rangers rebound? I'm not so sure. But, then again I didn't think the Cardinals would be able to overcome their Game 2 loss.

Either way the Cards are in terrific shape to win a 11th World Series title, as no matter what happens the next two nights in Arlington, they are guaranteed a return trip to Busch Stadium now.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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