La Russa confident in Pujols turning it around
Cards manager cites slugger's mental approach in ending slump
ST. LOUIS -- What is up with Albert Pujols?
That question has become a hot topic among Cardinals fans, who have watched the three-time National League Most Valuable Player struggle at the plate this season with a .231 batting average after 30 games.
Pujols' last extra-base hit, his seventh home run of the season, came back on April 23 against the Reds. He's gone 34 at-bats since, and has just six hits and two RBIs during that stretch, and his batting average has dropped 19 points from .250.
Manager Tony La Russa was asked on Tuesday night, after Pujols went 0-for-5 in a 7-5 win over the Marlins, if he was concerned about the first baseman's struggles.
"I see him put the ball on the barrel," La Russa said. "As long as he doesn't get discouraged. He's too strong mentality. But he's a human being. I'm sure he's frustrated at times. He hits the ball hard into a double play. He hits the ball hard to center field. He'll be fine because he's smart and tough-minded. He won't allow himself to be less than his best."
Pujols' seven home runs rank second on the Cardinals (behind Lance Berkman's nine), his 19 RBIs rank third (behind Berkman's 27 and Matt Holliday's 20) and his 22 runs scored rank third (behind Berkman and Holliday, who both have 24). Pujols has played a team-high 30 games.
Holliday, Berkman form early dynamic duo
ST. LOUIS -- While Albert Pujols is struggling early, left fielder Matt Holliday and right fielder Lance Berkman are off to torrid starts for the Cardinals.
Going into Wednesday night's game, Holliday (.409) and Berkman (.402) were ranked first and second in the Major Leagues in batting average.
They are the first Cardinals to be hitting better than .400 through the first 30 games of the season since Jim Edmonds (.400) in 2000, and the first teammates to achieve that distinction since 1997, when Jeff Blauser (.406) and Michael Tucker (.400) did it.
Holliday has 36 hits in 88 at-bats, with nine doubles, four home runs, 20 RBIs, 24 runs scored and a .505 on-base percentage. The switch-hitting Berkman, signed as a free agent in the offseason, has 39 hits in 97 at-bats and has nine doubles, nine home runs, 27 RBIs, 24 runs scored and a .477 OBP.
Berkman has also been named the National League Player of the Week twice already this season.
"All those things are nice to have, but bottom line: We want to win games," Berkman said. "Individual honors are great. I'm happy. I'd like to win it every week. But I think really just trying to help the team win is more important, whether you get selected for that or not."
Cards relievers continue to be evaluated
ST. LOUIS -- Rookie reliever Eduardo Sanchez picked up his second save of the season on Tuesday night in the Cardinals' 7-5 comeback victory over the Marlins, becoming the team's third reliever with at least two saves.
Mitchell Boggs has three saves in four opportunities, while Sanchez and Fernando Salas both have two in as many chances. Ryan Franklin and Trever Miller also have one save apiece.
Manager Tony La Russa likes his options in the bullpen and doesn't seem like he will name a closer anytime soon.
"I just look at who's available," La Russa said Tuesday. "There are several guys throwing the ball well."
But he's watching his cast of bullpen arms closely.
"They are all part of our depth and they are all going to be used in those situations, and every time they are used in the seventh or eighth or glamorous ninth, you are evaluating how they do," La Russa said.
The bullpen has combined to go 5-8 with a 2.96 ERA in 95 1/3 innings, with 41 runs (31 earned) on 92 hits, 81 strikeouts and 39 walks.
In the first two games of the Marlins series, the Cardinals used six relievers -- Salas, Boggs, Miller, Sanchez, Miguel Batista and Jason Motte -- who combined to allow two runs on seven hits over seven innings.
Sanchez impressed Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez on Tuesday.
"He has a very good fastball with a lot of movement," Rodriguez said. "And he had a lot of composure. He's legit. He was out there with first and second, and he made very good pitches. I like what I saw from him."
Nate Latsch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.