Albert Pujols Starts At Third Base, Doubles In Phillies Mini-Sweep

Albert Pujols is starting at third base. Jess Todd is back in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. This is not a drill.

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Albert Pujols Picks Up Three Hits, Doubles In Cardinals Win Vs. Phillies

It's not the full-blown renaissance his fantasy owners and St. Louis Cardinals fans everywhere are hoping for, but Albert Pujols put together a solid performance in the second and final game of the team's home mini-series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Pujols picked up three hits—two line drives and something of a texas leaguer over the infield in the ninth inning—and nearly hit a home run in the process, which would have been his first of the month. 

In the fifth inning, against former Astros foil Roy Oswalt, Pujols pulled a ball just to the wrong side of the foul pole and into the stands, missing a line drive home run. Suspecting the worst, Busch Stadium erupted when he took the fifth pitch of the at-bat nearly as far to the opposite field, bouncing one into the stands for a ground-rule double. 

Pujols still just has three doubles to show for his May output, although his batting average for the month has climbed over .300. On the season he's hitting .269/.339/.419, with seven home runs and 24 RBI. 

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St. Louis Cardinals Top Philadelphia Phillies In Two-Game Sweep

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Phillies for the second time in a row Tuesday night, finishing off a two-game series with a mini-sweep of sorts despite a score-tying error that left Jaime Garcia without a win. A ninth-inning rally for the Cardinals left Lance Berkman in a position to win the game for Fernando Salas, and he took advantage with a one-out line drive to center field that drove in Ryan Theriot from third base. Garcia didn't allow an earned run in eight innings but got the no-decision; he outdueled Roy Oswalt, who allowed a run in five innings in his return from the disabled list. 

Seven innings into what might have been his third shutout of the season Garcia was victimized by an error from Tyler Greene, who had replaced Allen Craig for defensive reasons at second base. Greene simply dropped a routine pop-up, and the unearned run was pushed across to tie the score. But Garcia held the Phillies at bay after that, and Salas pitched a scoreless, efficient ninth inning to put the top of the Cardinals' order up with a chance to win.

The Cardinals needed 13 hits to push through two runs; Albert Pujols had three, including an opposite-field double. Yadier Molina added three more, and Theriot and Jon Jay headed the lineup with two each. Garcia's ERA dropped to 1.64 after eight more innings without an earned run. 

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St. Louis Cardinals Top Philadelphia Phillies; Albert Pujols Plays Third

The St. Louis Cardinals managed to scrape six walks from the typically stingy Cliff Lee and made three runs out of the resulting baserunners; that was all Jake Westbrook needed, as he delivered one of his best starts of the season, picking up 12 groundball outs in front of an infield that included Albert Pujols, starting at third base for the first time since 2002. Ryan Theriot, Yadier Molina, and Nick Punto had two hits each for the Cardinals, who got two scoreless innings from relievers Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas

Jimmy Rollins doubled for the Phillies, who fall to 25-15 on the season. As for Pujols, the Cardinals double-switched him to first base, but not before he made some nimble plays around the bag and started a 5-4-3 double play. The team is cagey on its future plans for Pujols at the position, but he seems likely to appear there at least once more before David Freese's eventual return to the active roster. 

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Albert Pujols Starts At Third Base Vs. Cliff Lee, Phillies

Fantasy baseball players, continue holding your breath: Albert Pujols will be starting at third base Monday night against the Philadelphia Phillies and left-hander Cliff Lee, according to a report from Rick Hummel. The sudden lineup shift comes after Allen Craig, now the right fielder, was initially penciled in for his second start at second base to get his bat in the lineup against Lee. It's Pujols's first start at the position since 2002. 

Pujols, who played third base for a few innings earlier this year, was last the Cardinals' regular third baseman that year, when he split time there with Placido Polanco before the Scott Rolen trade that July. Lance Berkman will move to first base, while Nick Punto gets the start at second. 

In 2001, Pujols was an agile, if not exceptionally rangy, third baseman who might have stuck there if he hadn't been such a brilliant hitter. In 2011, significantly larger and perpetually limping down the baselines, it's anybody's guess. Pujols was originally moved to first base—from left field—because of his elbow, which was supposed to be hanging on by a thread at the time. Presumably, hopefully, necessarily... it's better. Hummel has more from Tony La Russa at the link

(Additional reading: Earlier this year we wrote up a look at Albert Pujols's third base career to date. We weren't expecting to have to update it.) 

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