Pujols reaches 100 RBIs in Cards' rout
First baseman goes 3-for-5; Luna finishes single short of cycle
MIAMI -- It was Hector Luna's night on Wednesday at Dolphins Stadium. It's been David Eckstein's week. But it's been Albert Pujols' century.
For the fifth time in his five big-league seasons, Pujols reached the 100-RBI mark as the Cardinals beat the Marlins, 10-5, to win a three-game series.
With no outs and So Taguchi on first base in the fifth inning, Pujols ripped a triple into the gap in right-center against rookie left-hander Jason Vargas. The knock was his second of three extra-base hits and gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.
Pujols is the fourth player in Major League history to have 100 or more RBIs in each of his first five seasons in the Majors, joining Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Al Simmons. Those four are the only players to start with four straight 100-RBI campaigns, as well. Simmons holds the record, reaching the century mark in every one of his first 11 seasons. Williams went eight in a row, and DiMaggio seven.
"It's pretty amazing, the type of players that he's compared to," said winning pitcher Jeff Suppan (13-10), who pitched five shutout innings. "Names that you've heard your whole life, and he's putting up those types of numbers. ... He's the type of guy who has that ability, and has a good work ethic and it shows out on the field."
Earlier this year, Pujols extended his own record by reaching 30 home runs in each of his first five seasons, and he has topped 100 runs every year, as well. He's also hit for at least a .300 average in each of his first four seasons, and is well on his way to hitting that number again.
"When you're talking about the best first five years in Major League history, how is that not huge?" said manager Tony La Russa. "Whether it's the 100 RBIs or .300 batting average or 30 home runs, that's huge. It's historic. We're not going to be cool about that one. We just saw history. How often do you see history in this game? When you see it, you applaud it and you appreciate it."
Pujols wasn't the only one to do something special on Wednesday. Luna fell a single short of hitting for the cycle, while Eckstein kept up a blitzkrieg week in which he's averaged an extra-base hit per game. Pujols was dismissive of his own accomplishment, but he was delighted to crow about the night of his friend Luna.
The second-year utilityman tripled and scored in the fourth, then hit his first homer of the year an inning later. When he doubled with no outs in the seventh, it was almost certain he'd get a shot at the cycle. However, he grounded out in the ninth and had to "settle" for three hits, nine total bases, three runs and three RBIs.
"I was pulling more than anybody in the dugout," Pujols said. "I wanted him to get that hit, because I knew it was going to be great for him and great for his career.
"I've been there, with the opportunity where I needed a hit, I needed a triple or a home run. I've done that probably 10 or 15 times in my career, but I've never gotten it. It's sweet. I'm telling you, there's something real special. There's not too many people that can do it. You have to have a real good night where you see the ball and drive the ball into the gap and hopefully get lucky and hit one out of the park."
Eckstein's homer, the first allowed by Marlins rookie Jason Vargas all year, gave the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead. The leadoff man totaled three hits and three RBIs on the night. Over the Cards' last six games, Eckstein has three doubles, a triple, two home runs and nine RBIs. He's 20-for-45 (.444) on the current road trip and slugged .521 for August.
"It's about time," Eckstein said with a smile. "It's one of those things that, I'm getting some more pitches that are middle-in, and I'm able to do something with them. A lot of teams earlier were [pitching me] away, away, away, and I was hitting line drives right at them. Now, facing these teams that we haven't really faced that much, and just being a little more aggressive, that's been the key thing.
"When I have situations to drive in runs, I've been real aggressive. You can't throw every pitch outside."
Vargas certainly didn't. He left a changeup high and on the inside half of the plate, and Eckstein punished it for his seventh home run of the season. His 35 extra-base hits this year are one shy of a career high.
Suppan allowed three hits and two walks, but a high pitch count and a 35-minute rain delay led to an early hook for the right hander. A rainstorm set in as the bottom of the fifth inning was starting. Suppan was allowed to remain in the game to pitch the fifth so he could win, but with 91 pitches, he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth.
St. Louis has won all three series thus far on a four-city road trip, going 7-3. The Cards are assured of a winning record on the 13-game trip, which wraps up over the weekend in Houston. Their magic number over the Astros to clinch the National League Central is 16.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.