Friday, July 29, 2011 - At Busch Stadium III (Edwin Jackson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Chicago Cubs (Matt Garza - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 42,042
Recently acquired pitcher Edwin Jackson (8-7) was making his St Louis Cardinals debut - and it was a good one - allowing just one run in seven innings, as the Cardinals cruised to a convincing 9-2 win over the Cubs.
After David Freese's three-run fourth-inning home run off Matt Garza (4-8) erased an early 1-0 deficit, the focus of the fans' attention was definitely centered on Albert Pujols and his quest for career hit number 2000. Pujols started the fourth-inning rally with hit number 1999 - a double - which was immediately followed by Matt Holliday's infield single, then the Freese blast to left center field.
The Cardinals tacked on three more runs in the sixth to build a comfortable 6-1 lead, as Jackson, who escaped from a second-inning bases-loaded-no-out jam with just one run allowed - settled down to blank the Cubs over his final five innings of work. He turned the ball over to the guy he displaced in the starting rotation - Kyle McClellan - to start the eighth-inning. Kyle then proceeded to demonstrate why he became the odd-man out, after giving up one run on a pair of hits and a walk, while getting just one batter out.
Jason Motte then came in from the bullpen to record the final two outs of the inning - minimizing the damage to just a single run. In the process, he gave a nice demonstration of the type of quality pitching the Cardinals were looking for in the back-end of the bullpen, as he eventually became the unofficial closer for Tony LaRussa all the way through Game Seven of the World Series.
With Carlos Marmol now pitching for the Cubs in the eighth-inning, the Cardinals put another three spot on the board - but the scoring was incidental to the historical milestone that occurred. With two runs already in and Ryan Theriot on second base with two out, Albert Pujols lined his second double of the game to score Theriot. It was career hit number 2000 for Albert - a milestone that had previously been reached just three times in franchise history - by Hornsby, Musial and Brock. For the 42,042 fans now giving their hero a standing ovation, the possibility that Pujols would actually be leaving them at the conclusion of this season - was unthinkable.
For the fans still bitter about that - get over it. Think about the eleven Hall of Fame-caliber seasons Albert Pujols produced with the Cardinals. The eight postseason appearances. The three National League championships. The two World Series championships. Sure, he has a large ego and felt slighted when he didn't think the front office really wanted him to stay. So he left for more money and more perceived recognition. That was his decision.
But in reality, the front office didn't want him to stay. Not at that price, anyway. And that was a good business decision.