07/02/2003 6:06 PM ET
Pujols takes back-to-back months
Named NL Pepsi Player of the Month for June
ST. LOUIS -- Were it not for some early-season injury problems, Albert Pujols might well be working on a wire-to-wire MVP chase. Pujols brought home National League Pepsi Player of the Month honors for June, just as he did in May and as he might well have in April had he gotten more than 65 at-bats.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The numbers for the Cardinals slugger were even more mind-boggling than usual in the month that just finished. He batted a ridiculous .429 with a .481 on-base percentage and a .723 slugging percentage. Pujols smacked eight homers and 11 doubles, drove in 29 runs and scored 28. And he did it all while walking more times (12) than he struck out (11).
"Imagine if he can do that for July, August and September," said manager Tony La Russa.
Pujols beat out teammate Jim Edmonds, who hammered 14 homers on the month, as well as Javy Lopez, Mark Loretta and Luis Gonzalez. He became the first player to win Player of the Month honors in the NL in consecutive months since Mark McGwire did it three straight times -- September 1997 and April and May 1998.
As a rookie in 2001, Pujols finished fourth in MVP balloting. Last season he was the runner-up to Barry Bonds. He entered Wednesday with the Major League leads in average (.381) and slugging (.700), as well as the NL's best marks in hits (117), runs (74) and RBIs (74).
"It's an honor that's well deserved," La Russa said. "Look at the quality of players in this league -- it's a difficult thing to win once, much less twice."
As an indicator of how strong Pujols has been, it's worth noting what passes for a "slump" for him. He was held hitless in consecutive games on Monday and Tuesday -- only the second time this season he has gone two games in a row without a base hit.
Pujols stood in fourth place in All-Star voting among NL outfielders in the final ballot update before rosters are announced. If he is not voted in, he is a likely candidate to be the National League's starting designated hitter at U.S. Cellular Field on July 15.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.