Despite a self imposed gag order on contract talks with the Cardinals until seasons end, Albert Pujols has had a “down” year for his standards, specifically in the batting average and on base percentage departments. Regardless, the power and RBI numbers are still on good pace for a typical Pujols season, and he will still be one of the most sought after free agents come winter.
The superstar first baseman, as we know, is a dream target for some Cubs fans as they look forward to see how things play out in the offseason. After the big contract signings that have backfired on the Cubs in recent years, there are plenty of Chicago fans that fear meeting the rumored $300 million 10 year contract demands of Pujols. But on a hot Saturday afternoon in St Louis, the slugger provided fans a firsthand reminder of just how good he is.
He gave the home team an early 2-0 lead when he homered off Cubs starter Randy Wells. When the Cubs came back to take a 4-2 lead in the top of the 6th inning, Pujols promptly hit a double in the bottom half to bring the Cardinals within one, and ended up being the tying run when he came around to score on a Lance Berkman single.
He capped off his superstar day by hitting the game winning walk off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning, and in turn single handedly accounted for all of the runs for St Louis for the game. That was his third home run of the series with one game still left to play today.
Assuming the Cubs have the funds and the financial stability to even consider going after Pujols, the front office must make it a priority to do so. The market will determine the where the total dollars and years eventually settles at, but the Cubs and fans must think a little beyond that. Swooping in for Pujols to sport Cubbie blue pinstripes would be a double whammy to St Louis. Not only do the Cardinals suffer the blow of losing the core of their line up and face of their team, the loss of his production numbers is doubled by adding those figures on the positive side of the balance sheet for the Cubs.
Pujols was the difference in the Cardinals winning yesterday’s game. With him on the North Side for 2012 and beyond, future games like this put a W next to Chicago in the standings.
Meanwhile the Cubs offense did make a better showing than Friday night. Kosuke Fukudome was one of the highlights on offense, going 3 for 6 with two doubles to keep his batting average above .300, something we have not seen into June during his time in the Majors.
Carlos Pena continued to flex the power stroke he got on track in May, hitting a two run home run for his eighth bomb of the season. With Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez showing Ryan Theriot type power lately, it is a blessing to see that at least Pena has been hitting home runs, regardless of how you feel about the signing.
Other than that, the only other highlight was rookie Tony Campana going 2 for 5. The lighting quick slap hitter is starting to remind me of Juan Pierre. If the kid can prove that he can handle Major League pitching and fine tune his base stealing once he is settled in, the Cubs may have the lead off hitter they have been perpetually looking for.
On the pitching side, it was good to see Randy Wells continuing to make strides to getting back to his old self after a stint on the disabled list, even though he was charged with four runs. Sean Marshall was unable to preserve the win for Wells after allowing game tying inherited runner to score, but the bullpen for the most part kept St Louis at bay until to the walk off home run.
Jeff Samardzija has been better than in years past, but manager Mike Quade made a mistake by not telling the kid to intentionally walk Pujols in the 12th inning. Samardzija has been getting by more on his stuff than his location this season, and Pujols is not the batter you try to have Samardzija pitch around in this situation. Quade pretty much set the kid up to fail this time around.
As a result, Pujols 5 Cubs 4.