MILWAUKEE — Your turn, Albert Pujols.
The St. Louis slugger had one of the biggest postseason nights of his career in Game 2 of the NL championship series, going 4 for 5 with a home run, three doubles and five RBIs to lead the Cardinals past the Milwaukee Brewers 12-3 on Monday.
Pujols belted a two-run homer in the first, a two-run double in the third and an RBI double in the fifth, then added another double in the seventh. The crowd cheered sarcastically when the Brewers finally retired him in the eighth.
“Sometimes when they come, they come in a bunch,” Pujols said
His big hits came one night after Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder bashed the Brewers to a 9-6, come-from-behind victory in Game 1.
This time, the big bats couldn’t bring Milwaukee back — even at Miller Park. The best home team in the majors all season, the Brewers had won all four home games in the playoffs until Monday.
The series now shifts to St. Louis, where Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter faces Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo in Game 3 on Wednesday night.
Pujols can become a free agent after the World Series, so a big postseason could raise his price. He was 1 for 4 in Sunday night’s loss, hitting into a double play with runners on first and third in the seventh inning. A run scored on the play, but it seemed to be an indication that Pujols wasn’t quite on his game. He came into Monday with only one RBI in the Cardinals’ first six postseason games.
But he struck a confident tone when asked about his struggles after Sunday night’s loss, saying “Tomorrow I can come and blow it out, and what are you going to say tomorrow?”
Blow it out, he did.
“The last time we saw them at their place he was swinging the bat just like this,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “You can’t make mistakes to him. You have to hit spots. You have to keep it down in the zone. He doesn’t miss too many mistakes.”
Rickie Weeks hit a two-run homer in the fourth for Milwaukee, then was involved in a disputed play in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Weeks grounded into a double play, though replays showed he was safe.
Weeks — hobbled by the lingering effects of a midseason left ankle injury — appeared to beat the throw to first base and seemed upset when he was called out.
But that play didn’t matter much after the Brewers gave up four runs in a backbreaking seventh inning. Fielder homered in the eighth, well after the outcome had been decided.
Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson went 4 1-3 innings, giving up Weeks’ home run. Lance Lynn got the win.
It was a short and ugly start by Milwaukee’s Shaun Marcum, who gave up five runs on seven hits in four innings and took the loss. Marcum, obtained in an offseason trade with Toronto, struggled mightily in the final month of the season. After a rough outing in Game 3 of the NL division series against Arizona, his place in the Brewers’ postseason rotation might come into question.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Roenicke said, adding later: “As far as I’m concerned right now he’s pitching again.”
St. Louis got started early when Jon Jay bunted for a one-out hit in the first. Pujols came to the plate and delivered what amounted to a warning shot, hitting a long fly just foul. Then he zeroed in on Marcum’s 2-1 offering, smacking it to left field for a home run.
Pujols stood at the plate and admired his shot for a moment, flipped his bat away and trotted around the bases.
“I’ve seen Albert like this before,” Roenicke said. “He’s a great offensive player. He’s a heads-up defensive player. He’s a heads-up baserunner. This is a great baseball player.”
St. Louis added two more runs in the third. Jackson’s single fell in when center fielder Nyjer Morgan got a bad break on the ball, tried to make a diving catch and then dropped it. With one out, Jay sneaked a single down the third-base line, again setting the stage for Pujols.
Pujols hammered a pitch deep to center, Morgan missed a chance at what would have been an acrobatic catch, and two runs scored to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead. Pujols pointed to the sky upon arriving at second base, then clapped his hands.
The Cardinals added another run in the fourth. Yadier Molina doubled, advanced on a groundout and scored when Nick Punto dribbled a single up the middle with the infield in to give St. Louis a 5-0 lead.
Milwaukee finally got to Jackson in the fourth, when Fielder led off with a double and Weeks hit a two-run shot to left to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-2. A one-out single by Yuniesky Betancourt threatened to keep the rally going, but Jonathan Lucroy grounded into a forceout and Casey McGehee tapped back to the pitcher to end the inning.
Brewers reliever Marco Estrada took over in the fifth, but the Cardinals kept on swinging.
Jay led off with a double and Pujols laced a ball into the gap in right-center for an RBI double. Pujols advanced to third on a groundout, then scored when a ball slipped through Lucroy’s legs for a wild pitch. Lucroy found the ball and made a quick throw to Estrada at the plate, but it wasn’t in time.
“The bullpen didn’t do so well, either,” Roenicke said. “We didn’t pitch well today.”
Milwaukee put runners on second and third after a walk and a one-out double by Braun in the fifth, chasing Jackson. Arthur Rhodes walked Fielder to load the bases and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made another pitching change, bringing in Lynn, who got Weeks to ground into the disputed double play.
“You guys saw the replay,” Roenicke said. “That was a big play.”
Things fell apart completely for the Brewers in a four-run seventh. Pujols led off with a double and Matt Holliday, Molina, David Freese and Punto delivered RBI singles.
Freese homered in the ninth, his second of the series.
NOTES: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers attended the game, getting a huge cheer from the crowd when he was shown on the stadium video board in the middle of the second inning. Rodgers has developed a friendship with Braun. … A foul popup dropped between Pujols and Molina in the second inning, leaving them staring blankly at each other. … Attendance was 43,937.