SAN DIEGO -- The home run that Albert Pujols hit on Monday to end the longest drought of his career was good for his psyche, Pujols somewhat acknowledged on Tuesday, if only because he had seen so many of his well-struck drives end up in gloves.
Take his first at-bat Monday, Pujols clocking a pitch, the ball soaring and then dying in San Diego's coastal air, Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin catching it on the warning track -- and Pujols looking like someone picked his pocket.
"I thought, 'You have to be kidding me,'" Pujols said on Tuesday, also mentioning similar results in both Kansas City and St. Louis.
As the miffed Pujols circled back toward the dugout, he bumped into poor Jon Jay, his teammate who had retreated to first base and into Pujols' path. Down went Pujols.
"I looked at Jay and said, 'What the heck, dude?'" Pujols said.
A man who has hit 416 home runs isn't easily discouraged, though, and although Pujols smacked another drive that Maybin also caught in PETCO Park's massive outfield, he said he was encouraged because up-the-middle blasts portend good things for him.
"It's when I'm rolling over the ball and striking out that you get concerned," Pujols said, describing chunks of his April.
He blasted a third consecutive shot next time. This one floated past left fielder Ryan Ludwick and over the wall, one row back.
"I'm glad it was the first row and not in Luddy's glove," said Pujols, whose homer was his eighth of the year.
Pujols had gone 105 at-bats without a home run, which was 26 at-bats longer than his previous career-long dry spell.
Meaningless, Pujols and manager Tony La Russa said, because Pujols was hammering pitches and doing many other things to help the National League Central leaders.
"I'm just trying to help this ballclub win," Pujols said. "I can't care less about home runs. Home runs are going to come when they come. They come in bunches. I have hit 14 homers in a month. As long as you hit the ball hard and put good quality swings, that's all I want."
Pujols spoke to the digestibility of hard-hit outs, depending on how he and the team are doing.
"When you are hitting .320, .330 and take a good swing," he said, "you say, 'Hang with it.' But when you are hitting .240 and you put a good swing on a ball like that [went to Maybin], you take on a little more frustration, because you know that ball should have dropped or that ball should be in the gap and be an RBI, or it should be in the seats. But hang with it."
He added: "It's part of baseball, the main thing is to not get frustrated, because it is part of baseball. The thing that helped me to be so successful is knowing that if it's going to be a [tough-luck] year like that, it's going to be a year like that. But my job is to make sure I continue to put up those quality at-bats, because at the end, I know things are going to all fall in place, I hope."
La Russa confident Carpenter will see results
SAN DIEGO -- Manager Tony La Russa likened Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter's young season to that of slugger Albert Pujols, saying that the performance is better than the results for the 2005 National League Cy Young Award winner.
On Wednesday, Carpenter will take a 1-4 record and 4.88 ERA into his start against the Padres.
"It's kind of like Albert," La Russa said. "Hard contact, on the ball, stay after it -- that's why the long season gets you where you should be. I don't know if it'll ever even out. Tomorrow, I'm hopeful that we get him some runs to work with."
Asked how Carpenter's form compares to that of his peak work, La Russa said the arm strength is there.
"That's what is most impressive," he said. "He's throwing well. I hate to resort to this, but he's a little bit snakebit. The other day [against the Royals], he pitches six innings, 0-0. Seventh inning, he gives up a couple of runs, losing pitcher."
Cards GM not rushing into talk of relief help
SAN DIEGO -- After Ryan Franklin lost the closer's job, relievers such as Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez firmed up the bullpen. But does Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak expect that he'll search for a veteran reliever this summer?
"There may be something we need to address as we get into June or July," Mozeliak said, "but to sit here today and say I know exactly what that is, no.
"As you look at some of the frustrations we've had, part of it's been health, part of it's been things in the bullpen -- yeah, if we could find something that would make sense. But I don't know if it's right-handed or left-handed right now. And I don't know if there might be a greater need down the road.
"The good thing for us right now is we're competing, we're doing it in a lot of different ways, and as long as we can stay in contention and be in a place where we can compete, the St. Louis Cardinals always look for ways to improve themselves at the Trade Deadline."
Pujols keeps cool after La Russa's ejection
SAN DIEGO -- Apparently Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wasted his time Monday when he rushed onto the field and was ejected by plate umpire Jim Joyce while making sure Albert Pujols wouldn't be ejected.
After taking a third strike from Padres reliever Mike Adams, Pujols spun around and yelled, and still appeared upset when La Russa arrived.
"I wasn't going to get thrown out," Pujols said. "I have so much respect for those guys, the umpires. They're human, they're going to make mistakes just like we're going to make mistakes. The last thing I want to do is disrespect a guy like Jim Joyce -- he is one of he nicest umpires in the league.
"I went back and said, 'I want to make sure I didn't try to show you up.' He said, 'It's all good, it's part of the game.' I just thought it was a big at-bat. Adams made a great pitch."
Tony La Russa said center fielder Colby Rasmus was out of the lineup Tuesday just to give him a breather, partly to assist him as a hitter. ... Catcher Tony Cruz was in the lineup for his Major League debut to refresh Yadier Molina and because La Russa liked pairing him with pitcher Kyle McClellan. Cruz singled in his first at-bat in the second inning. ... Left fielder Matt Holliday missed his second consecutive start because of a quadriceps strain, but La Russa again said Holliday isn't a candidate for the disabled list.
Tom Krasovic is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.