For anyone who has been paying attention to baseball this season, it has been easy to tell that Cardinal first baseman Albert Pujols hasn’t been playing up to his normal standards. Before this weekend's series against the Cubs, Pujols was hitting .265 (he has a career average of .329) with only nine homers (eight behind NL leader Jay Bruce), and only six doubles. His slugging percentage of .412 was more than 200 points lower than his career average (.617). Two months into the 2011 season and the best player in baseball hadn't regained his form.
However, Pujols is still the best hitter in baseball and so far in this weekend’s series the Cubs have been beaten by Pujols in both games. In two games Pujols is 4-7 with three home runs, one double and six RBIs. On Friday night he hit a two-run homer and on Saturday afternoon he hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, an RBI-double in the sixth and a walk-off homer in the twelfth. He has raised his average ten points in the two games, to .275.
The Cubs subpar pitching staff may have awakened the beast. Pujols has always hit well against the Cubs. In 590 career at-bats against Chicago (going into Saturday), Pujols has hit .297 with 48 homers (the most against any opposing team) and 127 RBI. Jeff Samardzija should not have thrown a pitch to Pujols that was close to the strike zone in the twelfth inning on Saturday. There were two outs, so you might as well take the bat out of Pujols’ hands. In fact, Cubs pitchers should have done that to Pujols in every at-bat he had during Friday and Saturday’s games. Hopefully, Sunday’s starter Carlos Zambrano (who hasn’t lost in St. Louis since 2003) has seen enough of the destruction caused by Pujols and won’t throw him any good pitches in the last game of the series.