05/02/06 6:52 PM ET
Pujols earns NL Player of Month
Cardinals slugger hit Major League-record 14 homers in April
By Dawn Klemish / MLB.com
When the two go hand in hand, however, it's icing on the cake.
On Tuesday, the Cardinals first baseman was voted National League Player of the Month for April after setting team and league records and topping the list in several offensive categories. But of those, Pujols would probably tell you he's most proud of the seven game-winning RBIs that lead the Majors.
"Twenty or 30 years from now, you're probably going to say you've watched one of the top five players to ever play this game," St. Louis shortstop David Eckstein said shortly after Pujols' third homer left the park to give the Cardinals an 8-7 victory on April 16.
"A superstar has that rare ability to put an entire ballclub on his back and say, 'Come ride with me.' That's what the Angels had with Vladimir [Guerrero] in '04, and it's what we have with Albert."
The reigning NL MVP has been hot from the jump, clubbing two homers on Opening Day and driving in four in a 13-5 win over the Phillies. He'd collect another 28 RBIs before the month was through to tie a team record for April.
The Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native hit his Major League-record 14th homer of April on Saturday, and it was, of course, the game-decider in a 2-1 win over the Nationals.
"He's obviously a phenomenal player, the best in the game," said Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter after the game. "Some guys don't hit 14 homers in a year, never mind a month.
"Albert is determined to get better every day. I don't know how much better he can get. It's just fun to be on his team."
To be on the opposing side of his hot bat is no party. Pujols' league-leading 27 runs scored, 28 bases-on-balls and .914 slugging percentage give opposing pitchers fits. The strategies teams choose to employ have come up short so far, as the first baseman is batting .346 (28-for-81) with four doubles, two stolen bases and a .509 on-base percentage.
"I'll tell you, man, people haven't figured it out," said Phillies infielder Abraham Nunez, who played with Pujols in St. Louis last season. "He's been in the league five years and no one knows. That's the type of guy he is. He's so good. Anything you throw, he hits. He's one of the best hitters in the game. I hope somebody can figure it out."
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa echoed Nunez' adulation.
"He's doing things that put him in company with the greatest players of all time."
This is the third NL Player of the Month Award for Pujols, who beat out Astros first baseman Lance Berkman (.348 average, 10 home runs, 29 RBIs), Giants outfielder Moises Alou (.360 average, seven home runs, 24 RBIs) and Colorado outfielder Brad Hawpe (.362 average, seven home runs, 18 RBIs) for the honor.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.