ARLINGTON, Texas – Albert Pujols began the game hoping to shake his slump and maybe get a hit.
He did that, and a whole lot more: He produced the defining game of his career, and perhaps the greatest hitting performance in World Series history.
Pujols launched three impressive homers, drove in six runs and finished with five hits – tying a Series record with each accomplishment – as the St. Louis Cardinals romped past the Texas Rangers 16-7 on Saturday night for a 2-1 edge.
“Just pretty special,” he said.
The three-time National League MVP matched Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson for the most home runs in a game. Pujols added two singles and set a Series mark with 14 total bases.
“Hopefully, at the end of my career, I can look back and say, ‘Wow, what a game it was in Game 3 in 2011,’ ” Pujols said.
And to think, his night began with a groundout that left him 0 for 7 against Texas
“I mean, with Babe and Reggie, that’s pretty good company right there,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
The outburst by Pujols came a day after he was barbed by the media for not sticking around to talk about a Game 2 error and loss. This time, everyone was talking about him.
“When the opportunity presents itself to put him on the bag, I’m not going to let him swing the bat,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “But tonight, we just couldn’t get the ball out of the middle of the plate and up, and he just didn’t miss.
“I saw him on TV but I’ll tell you, tonight was something special.”
The Cardinals mashed their way to the highest-scoring game in their storied postseason history, breaking away after first-base umpire Ron Kulpa’s admitted blown call.
After two taut games in St. Louis, this suddenly turned into a messy slugfest. Pujols, the most feared slugger in the majors, was right in the middle – he became the first player in Series history to get hits in four straight innings.
So much for any worries about Pujols making a dent.
“I was hitting the ball hard, but I wasn’t getting any hits,” he said. “But all it takes is one good game. I got five hits, what are they going to say about it?”
Texas fans booed after Kulpa’s miss helped the Cardinals score four times in the fourth for a 5-0 lead. The crowd at Rangers Ballpark went silent when Pujols started swinging for the fences, and beyond. His three-run shot in the sixth rattled the windows of the club level in left field.
Pujols joined Ruth, who hit three homers in games against the Cardinals in 1926 and 1928, and Jackson’s three-homer show against the Dodgers in 1977. Pujols’ six RBIs matched Bobby Richardson in 1960 and Hideki Matsui in 2009.
Pujols also matched the Series mark for hits in a game set by Paul Molitor in 1982.
“It’s an honor to be named in the same category as those guys,” Pujols said.
Good-luck charm Allen Craig homered for St. Louis and Yadier Molina drove in four runs. The Cardinals broke it open by scoring four times in the fourth, three more in the fifth and four in the sixth.
Pujols connected off Alexi Ogando in the sixth, hit a two-run drive off Michael Gonzalez in the seventh and tagged Darren Oliver for a solo shot with two outs in the ninth.
“When Pujols is at the plate, that’s the first time he did damage. We fought back pretty good, the next thing you know he’s up there batting with guys on base and brings them in,” Oliver said. “That’s what he does. That’s why he’s the hitter he is.”
By the end, Rangers president Nolan Ryan was rubbing his forehead and it was hard to keep track of all the hits.
Balls were rolling into the corners, sailing over the fence and going most everywhere.
E—Napoli (1), Kinsler (2), Andrus (1). LOB—St. Louis 6, Texas 8. 2B—Freese (2), Y.Molina 2 (2), Mi.Young (1), A.Beltre (2). HR—Craig (1), Pujols (3), Mi.Young (1), N.Cruz (1). RBIs—Craig (3), Pujols 6 (6), Freese 2 (2), Y.Molina 4 (4), Theriot (1), Mi.Young 2 (3), A.Beltre (1), N.Cruz 2 (2), Napoli 2 (4). CS—Jay (1). SF—Y.Molina, Napoli 2. RLISP—St. Louis 3, Texas 3. RMU—Freese, Jay, N.Cruz, Dav.Murphy. GIDP—Furcal, J.Hamilton. DP—St. Louis 2, Texas 1.
IR-S—Salas 1-0, Lynn 2-2, Dotel 1-1, Feldman 2-0, M.Gonzalez 3-1. IBB—Y.Molina. T—4:04. A—51,462 (49,170).