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Video tip got Cardinals' star back on track

Video tip got Cardinals' star back on track
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Stuck in a funk, Albert Pujols kept looking for a flaw. Videotape study detected the trouble: Last year's NL MVP was too eager at the plate.

Pujols corrected the problem, as evidenced by his performance in the St. Louis Cardinals' latest homestand - 9-for-20 with three home runs and 11 RBIs, and only one strikeout.

Pujols also contributed a key steal in a one-run victory against Chicago. Overall, the NL Central-leading Cardinals swept three games from the New York Mets and took two of three from the Cubs.

The big week came after Pujols went 1-for-9 with one RBI in a three-game set at Wrigley Field, a series in which he found himself jumping at pitches.

Pujols may look like "The Natural" with his ability to wait till the last possible instant before committing to swing, but he works at it. No Cardinal spends more time watching video and two recent sessions helped him rediscover his stroke.

"I said, 'That's not me,"' Pujols said. "Then I looked back at last year when I felt great and I found something and I took it to the game. So far, it's feeling good. I'm going to keep doing it until I need to make another adjustment."

Not surprisingly, entering a seven-game trip that starts Monday night at Atlanta, Pujols was tied for the NL lead in homers (7) and RBIs (25) while batting .343. Cubs pitchers walked him three times and hit him a fourth time on Sunday.

"He's the best player I'll probably ever play with, and I'm happy he's on my side," Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker said. "He just does so much damage, it's incredible."

Pujols' grand slam on Saturday vaulted him over 1,000 RBIs at age 29.

"Double his career from here to the end and he's in the Hall of Fame," manager Tony La Russa said. "What a player! It's a pleasure to watch him play. Actually it's a pleasure to watch him practice.

"It's a pleasure to watch him in the clubhouse talking to his teammates."

Pujols is one of only six Cardinals to drive in 1,000 runs, joining the likes of Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Jim Bottomley and Rogers Hornsby, and he passed Ken Boyer (1,001) with his second grand slam of the year.

He can run when it's called for, too, going 3-for-3 in steals during three straight games last week. Against the Cubs on Friday, he singled in the eighth off Carlos Marmol, stole second off a great jump and scored the go-ahead run on Ryan Ludwick's single.

It's no coincidence that Pujols' numbers also have picked up because of the guys surrounding him in the lineup, including Ludwick (.333, 5 homers, 19 RBIs), Chris Duncan (.310, 2 homers, 12 RBIs) and Rick Ankiel recently also rounding into form.

"I'm glad Ludwick and Ankiel are hitting behind him because he's starting to get some pitches to hit," Schumaker said. "When he does, it's unbelievable to watch him day in and day out."

Pujols expects the Cardinals, who missed the postseason the last two seasons after winning the World Series in 2006, will be in it for the long haul. He believes the tone was set in spring training.

"Everything is done there, everything," Pujols said. "We brought that into the season. We're young, but we've got some talent."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 28, 2009

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