Pujols and Cardinals slam Brewers again, 8-4
A day after pitcher Jake Westbrook hit a grand slam, Pujols hit one of his own and added a solo shot to help the Cardinals complete a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers with an 8-4 win Thursday.
"If Albert doesn't have that kind of game," I don't know where this game goes," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after Pujols finished 4 for 4 with five RBIS and three runs scored.
That production helped the Cardinals win for the sixth time in seven games and move within 7½ games of the Brewers on the NL Central.
"Seven and a half is still plenty good," Hart said. "I felt like we played extremely well. This is the first series in a while when we didn't play as we should have. You're going to get beat by good teams when you don't play well."
The Brewers dodged Pujols' power until Thursday. He was batting .189 in 14 games. Milwaukee hadn't been swept at home since the Dodgers did it Aug. 24-26, 2010.
"We just came here to try to win the series," La Russa said. "Obviously, it wasn't easy. These guys are playing pretty well in their ball park. Taking three games out of three is awesome. We just need to flip the page and be ready to play tomorrow with Cincinnati."
Rafael Furcal led off the game with a home run for the second game in a row and Pujols also hit a first-inning homer before his third-inning slam.
Matt Holiday hit his 200th career home run in the fifth with a two-run shot.
"It was nice — 200 home runs is a pretty good mark," Holliday said. "It's nice to get it out of the way."
Milwaukee scored all of its runs on homers by Prince Fielder, Jonathan Lucroy and Corey Hart.
Fielder became the first player in Brewers history with 30 home runs in five consecutive seasons with a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth.
Throughout the series, the Brewers never mounted any come-from-behind threats against the Cardinals' relievers.
"There such a dangerous club to keep off the scoreboard," La Russa said. "The fact that our bullpen did so many of them, that's a credit to a lot of guys with good arms making a lot of good pitches and our catcher is a magician sometimes."
Pujols crushed Yovani Gallardo's 2-0 pitch in the first 462 feet to left, but his slam went the opposite way to give him the NL lead with 34 homers.
"I got a good pitch to hit up and just put a good swing (on it) and it went out of the park," Pujols said.
It was the 42nd multihomer game of his career.
Pujols and Holliday helped chase Gallardo (15-9) in the fifth. Pujols hit a liner for a single and Holliday followed with an opposite-field two-run shot for an 8-3 lead.
Four of Furcal's five home runs with the Cardinals since being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31 have come against the Brewers.
Brandon Dickson made his major-league start for St. Louis after being recalled from Triple-A Memphis.
La Russa said that there were too many games left to think the Brewers will panic.
"I wouldn't even begin to expect that they have doubt," he said. "They know they're a good club. The record they built, they built because they are a good club and they compete well."
Hart's two-run homer off Dickson made it 6-3. After a visit by bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist, Dickson struck out the side to end the threat.
Official scorer Tim O'Driscoll gave the win to Octavio Dotel (1-2) who took over for Dickson in the fourth when the Brewers put two on with one out. He promptly struck out Lucroy and Gallardo to end the threat.
Gallardo allowed eight runs on nine hits, struck out eight and walked one.
The Brewers and the Cardinals play their final three games of their season series this coming Monday at Busch Stadium.
"We've got to go on the road and start playing a little better," Hart said. "We've been doing it all year, so I don't see why we're not going to do it."
NOTES: Some Brewers made two body outlines with tape where Ryan Braun twice fell flat on his face after rounding third, hustling for a potential inside-the-park home run in Tuesday night's loss. Both times, he awkwardly got up, staggered a few steps and then hit the dirt again. After a brief rundown, Cardinals third baseman David Freese tagged Braun out. ... Hart extended his hitting streak to 14 games with his 23rd home run in the third. ... RHP Chris Carpenter (8-9) makes his team-leading 29th start overall and fifth this season against the Cincinnati Reds Friday night. ... RHP Zack Greinke (13-5) hopes to improve his 2-0 record in two career starts against the Astros on Friday night when he takes the mound in Houston.