Albert Pujols hit his third home run in five games and Garrett Stephenson worked eight strong innings as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Montreal Expos, 3-1, Saturday for their sixth win in a row.
The Cardinals have come to expect big things from Pujols, the NL rookie of the year in 2001 and the most valuable player runner-up last season.
The defending NL Central champions are a season-best four games above .500 at 16-12. They’re undefeated on their current six-game home stand with one game to go, outscoring their opponents, 43-14.
Pujols hit a two-run homer off rookie Claudio Vargas (0-1) in the third inning that banged off a stadium club window just below the upper deck at Busch Stadium, a drive measured at 452 feet. The homer was his sixth of the season and put the Cardinals ahead, 3-1.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time, to hit that ball right there,” Pujols said.
Pujols has gone 10 for 20 with eight runs batted in this week to raise his average to .387. Team doctors on April 19 ordered him not to throw for three weeks because of a sprained right elbow, but Manager Tony La Russa has used him in the field the last nine games. He hasn’t had to test his arm yet, though.
After playing all nine innings at first base in Friday’s 8-1 victory, Pujols played left field on Saturday. He was replaced by Miguel Cairo after six innings as a precaution.
The Expos missed a chance to tie their best start ever. They’re 18-12 this year after going 19-11 in 1979, ’85 and ’96.