NEW YORK - St. Louis manager Tony La Russa repeated the same thing over and over again during Albert Pujols’ brief slump.
“I said he’s smart. He’ll fix it,” La Russa said. “He fixed it tonight.”
Boy, did he.
Pujols hit a grand slam in the 10th inning for his second homer of the game and the Cardinals rallied to beat the sliding New York Mets 12-7 on Tuesday.
Pujols finished with four hits and five RBIs for the Cardinals, snapping out of an 0-for-13 skid with his ninth multihomer game of the season. Ryan Ludwick also went deep and drove in two runs for St. Louis.
“I didn’t change my approach,” Pujols said. “I just made sure I had good swings.”
The Cardinals scored eight times in the last three innings to hand New York its fifth loss in six games. With two out and the bases loaded in the 10th, Sean Green replaced Pedro Feliciano (4-4) and hit Mark DeRosa on the left elbow with his first pitch to give St. Louis an 8-7 lead.
“That’s not how I had it planned out but just been erratic with my location,” said Green, whose wild pitch plated the deciding run in New York’s 3-2 loss to Arizona on Friday night, “and it’s cost us the last couple outings.”
With the Citi Field crowd still jeering Green, Pujols hit an 0-2 pitch into the seats in left to tie Ernie Banks’ NL record of five slams in a season set in 1955. The All-Star slugger is 7 for 9 with 24 RBIs with the bases loaded this year and leads the majors with 36 homers. He is one slam behind the major league record for a season held by Travis Hafner and Don Mattingly.
“I’m human. I’m not a machine,” said Pujols, disputing a popular SportsCenter commercial on ESPN. “I work hard. I’m ready every day. I didn’t put my head down. I don’t change myself and I don’t change my approach.”
Kyle McClellan (3-2) pitched a scoreless 10th for St. Louis, which managed to get the win despite a shaky outing by Joel Pineiro.
Johan Santana hit a two-run double and pitched a season-high eight innings for New York, which fell nine games behind NL wild card-leading Colorado and lost another player to an injury. Second baseman Luis Castillo slipped trying to avoid a glove on the dugout steps and sprained his left ankle after he grounded out leading off the seventh. X-rays were negative.
“I don’t really know what else we have to go through, to be honest to you guys,” Santana said. “We’ve had to go through everything this season and we’re trying to battle through it. We’re trying to pick each other up and trying to step it up. But reality is that we’ve got to have everybody together and healthy.”
St. Louis scored two runs in the ninth to tie it at 7 and hand Francisco Rodriguez his fourth blown save in 28 opportunities this season. Rick Ankiel and Julio Lugo opened the inning with consecutive doubles, and Skip Schumaker had an RBI single with one out.
The Cardinals went on to load the bases with two down but Rodriguez got Ryan Ludwick to pop out on his 41st pitch of the inning.
“It was really embarrassing out there,” Rodriguez said. “I was unable to make pitches when I needed to.”
Pujols singled in the fourth, doubled in the fifth and hit a massive drive into the Big Apple well in center in the eighth for his first homer since he hit two against Arizona on July 17.
New York scored three in the second and four in the fifth against Pineiro, who had been on a nice little roll. The right-hander was 4-1 with a 1.37 ERA in his previous seven starts and 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA against the Mets for his career, including a masterful two-hit shutout at Citi Field on June 23.
With runners on first and second in the fifth, Gary Sheffield hit Pineiro’s first pitch to the wall in left-center and Daniel Murphy followed with another double that landed in almost the exact same spot. Alex Cora tacked on a two-out RBI single to make it 7-4.
Notes: Mets SS Jose Reyes returned to New York on Monday night and was examined by team doctors on Tuesday because of continuing discomfort in his right leg. Reyes, who has been out since May with a couple of leg injuries, was rehabbing in Florida. ... Troy Glaus’ bulging disk in his lower back has not responded to treatment, forcing the Cardinals to shut down his minor league rehab assignment. The third baseman was examined by team doctors in St. Louis over the weekend and the club said it will be a week to 10 days before he’s able to resume baseball activities. ... Pujols is tied with Rogers Hornsby for fourth on the club’s career list with 367 doubles. ... Feliciano was charged with three runs and two hits while recording one out. He had allowed only four unearned run in 25 innings at home this season. ... La Russa earned his 1,200th win with the Cardinals.
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