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Babe, Reggie and now Albert; Cardinals slugger is talk of the Series

On the day after, there was some discussion about starting pitching and bullpens and a little more chat about instant replay and umpires.

But the buzz around the World Series prior to Game Four unquestionably remained around Albert Pujols and his superhuman performance Saturday night.

In terms of World Series games, three home runs is a gold standard almost never reached. There is Babe Ruth (twice). There is Reggie Jackson. And now there is Pujols, who went deep in three straight at-bats as the Cardinals rolled to a 16-7 win over the Texas Rangers.

What took place Saturday in Rangers Ballpark was, quite simply, the best game any hitter has ever had in the Fall Classic.

Three home runs in consecutive at-bats -- over four innings. Five hits, six RBIs. All of those tied Series records. And Pujols' 14 total bases set a new mark.

"Last night was truly an Albert Pujols night, one that I've seen multiple times, no matter if it's April or June," said St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter, who will start Game Five tonight.

"Fortunately for us it was Game Three of the World Series. But he's done this many times. Those nights, you can just tell he sees every pitch. And when he does, he's not going to miss it and he hits it a mile. You can see it in his batting practice."

Prior to Game Four, Texas manager Ron Washington said his team's execution simply failed against Pujols.

"We made four mistakes in the middle of the plate. That can't happen," Washington said. "We'll try to make an adjustment today and see where it goes."

Pujols went hitless on Sunday night as the Rangers defeated the Cardinals, 4-0, to even the series at two games apiece.

The Rangers, it would seem, are going to try to pitch around Pujols. But the Cardinals are OK with that.

"Since our heydays with Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen -- and those were real good heydays -- there was one year where three of them were MVP candidates," said manager Tony La Russa. "This club is right there. I mean, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, these guys are classic producers, and then you've got a young emerging David Freese back there.

"You just don't spend a lot of time trying to anticipate or explain someone else's strategy, because they look at the game differently, and whatever they choose to do, you respect the fact that they think they know what's best for their club. I'm just saying that if the idea is for Albert not to beat them, that doesn't bother us, because the depth that we have in front and behind him."

Pujols was 5 for 6 Saturday, grounding out in his first at-bat to drop to 0 for 7 in the series. Then he singled twice before putting on his real show.

Pujols mashed a three-run homer in the sixth inning off struggling Alexi Ogando -- a 423-foot bomb that careened off the facing of the club level in left field -- to give the Cardinals an 11-6 lead. He added a two-run blast in the seventh off Mike Gonzalez and the coup de grace came in the ninth with a two-out solo shot off Darren Oliver.

"It's very special," Pujols said after midnight in a packed interview room near the Cardinals' clubhouse. "Those guys [Ruth and Jackson] are great players and to do it at this level and this stage is amazing. At the same time, I didn't come walking into the ballpark today thinking I was going to have a night like that."

Holliday, who was on deck for each of Pujols' home runs, had reporters in stitches afterward when discussing his view.

"Just make sure people know I played in the game because my at-bats didn't even make the TV with all the replays," Holliday said. "I go out to left field, I can hear the guy [the auxiliary press box public-address announcer] announcing all the numbers you guys hear. I heard all that.

"The 1926 [for Ruth's three home runs]. Paul Molitor is the last guy with five hits (for Milwaukee in 1982). I heard them all, so I've had an hour to put it all in perspective. It's all pretty good."

"I don't concentrate on numbers. This is not an individual game," Pujols said. "It's a team effort. I try to help my ballclub win however I can. Hopefully at the end of my career I can look back and say, 'What a game it was in Game Three in 2011.' It was great to get this win and we move on and get ready to play [Sunday]."

Late Saturday night, La Russa was pondering the question if anyone has had a better day in the Series.

"With Babe and Reggie, that's good company right there," La Russa said. "I think the best thing to do is you make that statement and ask somebody, 'OK, show me one that was better.' I think it would be hard to do."

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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