06/21/09 6:45 PM ET
Pujols powers sweep of Royals
Slugger's two homers, six RBIs net La Russa 2,500th win
By Rustin Dodd / MLB.com
But after hitting two home runs -- including a fourth-inning grand slam -- and carrying the Cardinals to a 12-5 victory and a series sweep of the Royals on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, Pujols had no insight on his historic performance on a milestone day for manager Tony La Russa.
"I don't know what it is," Pujols said.
There he was, standing just a few miles from where he attended high school, in a town where he spent years of his childhood. But he's still not sure why he's been so dominant at Kauffman Stadium.
Pujols' numbers read like this: 4-for-5 with two homers, a double and six RBIs. He's now hit three grand slams this season, tying a club record. He's hit nine career grand slams, tying the franchise mark held by Cardinals legend Stan Musial. He helped La Russa win his 2,500th career game. And he's now hit 12 home runs in 27 career games at Kauffman Stadium.
"Is it special? Yeah, because I got family and friends here," Pujols said. "But it's nothing different than every day of my routine."
Pujols finished with three home runs and 10 RBIs in the sweep, helping ignite an offense that outscored Kansas City 29-11 over three games.
"He does it over and over again," La Russa said. "And it's just impossible to describe how great he is. But when he does something like this, this is really great. It was the difference. His production is the difference in that game."
It certainly was the difference in the fourth inning.
Trailing, 4-3, the Cardinals sent 13 men to the plate and came away with eight runs and an 11-4 lead.
But it was Pujols who supplied the back-breaking blast, a jolt that crashed off the windows of the Royals Hall of Fame building in left field, an estimated 423 feet from home plate.
It came off Royals starter Gil Meche, who, like the rest of the Kansas City pitching staff, couldn't find a way to contain Pujols' bat.
Pujols worked the count to 3-2 on Meche, before sending an 85-mph changeup soaring through the muggy Kansas City air.
"You need to be patient," Pujols said. [Meche] is a competitive guy. He's gonna go out there and go after you. And hopefully, he makes a mistake like he did and you take advantage."
Pujols took advantage of another mistake in the fifth inning, hitting a solo homer to left off reliever Jamey Wright to put the Cardinals up, 12-4.
By that time, there was little doubt to the outcome. La Russa would join Connie Mack and John McGraw as the only managers to win at least 2,500 games, and the Cardinals would stay in first place for another day.
But a win looked anything but guaranteed after three innings.
The offense started fast, scoring two runs in the top of the first on an RBI single from Pujols. The lead didn't last long.
The Royals responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame, but Khalil Greene hit his third home run of the series in the top of the second to tie the score at 3.
The Cardinals fell behind again in the bottom of the second, when starter Adam Wainwright surrendered a solo shot to David DeJesus to make the score 4-3.
Wainwright, who lasted six inning and allowed five runs, wasn't perfect, but he managed to improve to 8-4.
"He's got great guts, and he hung in there and he got better and better," La Russa said.
And DeJesus' homer was a ripple compared to the Cardinals' eruption in the fourth. Left fielder Rick Ankiel added two hits and two runs in the eight-run inning.
By the time it was over, and Blake Hawksworth had recorded the final out in the ninth, there were mostly red shirts left in the stands at Kauffman Stadium.
Cardinals fans could drive home to St. Louis sunburned and content. And the Cardinals could celebrate La Russa's milestone and Pujols' heroics.
Shortstop Brendan Ryan stood off to the side with a video camera, focusing it on Pujols, and documenting the day's events.
"I don't know if I'm amazed every day, or I expect it every day," Ryan said. "He's the best there is."
Rustin Dodd is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.