Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Albert. He is hands down the best hitter in the game because he does it all. He has extreme patience at the plate, is willing to take a walk, hits to the gaps, and of course, hits the long ball.
But, it seems everyone is talking about the awesomeness of Pujols these days (even non-Cardinal blogs, which is cool to see!), that I thought I would talk about something different.
It’s like last year during the NLCS. Every Cards fan remembers the towering shot Pujols had against Houston to stretch the series to one more game. But, how many people remember that it was David Eckstein who fought his way back from 2 strikes to get on base? Without that, there would be no Pujols homerun.
So far this year, the player who deserves a lot of credit for what Pujols is doing is Scott Rolen. With Edmonds out of the lineup, Scott is hitting directly behind Pujols. Rolen has been on fire this year, hitting for average and hitting his own share of towering blasts. When you have that kind of power behind Pujols, as a pitcher, you cannot walk him. Every great hitter must be protected or he will get walked all the time.
Rolen provides this kind of protection to Albert. And, already this year, when Pujols has been walked, Rolen has made them pay. On Sunday, some people were wondering why Weathers didn’t walk Pujols in the 9th inning when he had already hit 2 homers. It was because there was already a guy on and if you put Pujols on as well, then you have a guy in scoring position with Rolen up. One basehit and the game’s over anyway. So, they are forced to face Pujols.
Otherwise, I’m sure they would have walked him intentionally. After all, Bonds is leading the league with 6 intentional walks, even though he has yet to go yard even once and is hitting under .200. If pitchers are that scared over a guy that used to hit a lot of homers, of course they would walk a guy that is currently hitting a lot of homers. But, Pujols only has 1 intentional walk this season! To me, that’s an extremely surprising stat.
Want more proof? The first time this year that Rolen batted directly after Pujols (swapped with Edmonds due to him being a righty), Pujols was walked. Rolen came up and went deep. He’s had basehits at other times following a Pujols walk.
Pujols didn’t have that last year with Rolen hurt and out of the lineup. I guarantee that Pujols will hit more homers this year than he did last year. And yes, part of that reason is because of the greatness that is Albert Pujols. He’s so dialed in right now, it feels that he can take a ball in the dirt and hit a dinger. But, the other part of that equation is Scott Rolen. And I, for one, am happy to have him hitting behind Pujols.
Obviously, the best combination would be to have an Edmonds of old and a Rolen hitting behind him. Because there have been a couple of times this year when the other team walked Pujols, walked Rolen and then what? Edmonds has come through a couple of times, but has struck out more than that. And, the rest of the time it’s been Encarnacion not doing anything. So, either we need to get Edmonds back on track (which I feel is possible) or get someone else in there (I say Miles or Luna, whoever’s at 2nd) to provide the double protection.
Also, we had so much fun with the last question I asked, I think it’s about time for another. (If you haven’t yet, you should read this post where I asked about the first Cardinal homerun at Busch and this comment, where John corrctly called that Mulder would go deep for the first time in his career!)
So, the question is, how many homers will Pujols hit against Chicago this weekend? Things to keep in mind:
- They play 3 games against the Cubs this weekend, at home.
- He has yet to hit even one this season against the Cubs.
- He has hit 5 homers in his last 3 games.
- The Cubs pitching probables are (in order) Jerome Williams, Glendon Rusch and Greg Maddux.
I’ll start things off by saying he’ll hit 3. I know it’s a high guess, considering how little he did against them at Wrigley (even with base hits), but I feel he’s really on a roll now. You have 3 days to make your guess, so let me know!
Looking for Albert to make it 4 games in a row,