07/20/2003 10:17 PM ET
Cards win slugfest in Los Angeles
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Woody Williams' third career homer and Albert Pujols' 100th broke open a tie game and propelled the Cardinals to a 10-7 win over the Dodgers and a split of their four-game series. The fourth-inning longballs were part of a Dodger Stadium-record nine total homers between the teams.
Pujols became the fourth player in Major League history to reach the 100-homer mark in his first three seasons, joining Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner, Eddie Mathews and Joe DiMaggio. Kiner's 114 homers are the most for any player in his first three seasons -- a mark Pujols has a chance to top.
"It's just incredible," said Williams. "You lose sight of what someone's doing because you're seeing him every day. Before the season's over he's gonna be at the top of that list. You would think so, anyway. But just to be in that group is amazing. Those are unbelievable ballplayers."
At 23 years, 185 days, Pujols is the seventh-youngest player to reach 100, behind Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Mathews, Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Johnny Bench. Ott and Bench are in the Hall of Fame, and Rodriguez seems well on his way. All-time home run king Hank Aaron was 23 and 191 days when he hit No. 100.
"I respect that," Pujols said of his Hall of Fame company, "but it doesn't mean anything. I'm too young. It's only three years in the league. That's one of the levels I want to reach when I walk out of this game -- hopefully to try to be in the Hall of Fame. But if it doesn't happen I just want to try to have a good career. I can't read my future. So I just will hopefully stay healthy and keep helping my team out and hopefully keep putting up the numbers that I've been putting up the last three years."
For Williams, one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball, a July homer is becoming something of a tradition. All three of his dingers have come in July, and he has one in three of the past four years. He last went deep on July 1, 2002, against the Padres.
"I work hard on my hitting," he said. "I take pride in it. It's very important. When you give up a lot of runs, if you can bunt a guy over -- which I didn't -- or drive a run in or score a run, it's two they have to get. In a game like this it makes all the difference in the world."
Still, without an uncharacteristic pitching performance from the veteran right-hander, his offensive output would hardly have mattered. Staked to a 4-0 first-inning lead, Williams found himself in a 5-5 tie after three innings. His solo shot off Odalis Perez put St. Louis ahead, and three batters later, Pujols hit a two-run blast that scored Bo Hart for insurance runs.
Williams (13-3) was charged with six runs on 10 hits in seven-plus innings. He was touched for four homers, his most since allowing five on July 13, 2001 as a member of the Padres at Houston. The Cardinals remained within three games of first-place Houston in the NL Central as the Astros completed a four-game sweep of Cincinnati.
"He was real sluggish early -- didn't locate very well," said manager Tony La Russa. "You've got to give them credit, they centered it. But ... he didn't ever say 'It's not my day.' He keeps pitching and gets us that deep into the game. That's Woody Williams."
Pujols started the first Cardinals rally with a two-out walk against Perez, who had never lost to the Cardinals despite a 7.80 career ERA against them. Scott Rolen followed with his 20th homer of the year. After Edgar Renteria walked, Eduardo Perez made it 4-0 with a two-run blast of his own. Rolen reached base five times on two hits and three walks, and tallied 11 hits and six walks in six games against Los Angeles this year.
Rickey Henderson's 81st career leadoff homer made it 4-1, and Jeromy Burnitz and David Ross hit solo home runs in the second to make it a one-run game. Rolen scored St. Louis' fifth run, scoring from first on a Renteria single and Burnitz's error in center.
Los Angeles tied it up in the third after Paul Lo Duca singled with two outs and Burnitz homered again, but the Cards took the lead for good in the fourth. Cal Eldred gave up a two-run homer to Adrian Beltre in the eighth, but the Cards got it right back in the top of the ninth on Mike Matheny's two-run single.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.