Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals followed up their greatest World Series performance with one of their meekest.
Pujols went hitless in four at-bats a day after hitting three home runs and the Cardinals mustered only a pair of hits on their way to a 4-0 loss to the Texas Rangers that evened the series at two games each.
The dropoff was stunning. After scoring a franchise Series-best 16 runs in Game 3, they didn't even get anyone past second base in Game 4.
"They worked us over," manager Tony La Russa said.
Only once have the Cardinals been more futile at the plate in 17 previous trips to the World Series. That was in Game 2 in 1967, when they got a single hit off Boston's Jim Lonborg.
This time, St. Louis went three-up, three-down in five of eight innings against Texas starter Derek Holland, a 25-year-old left-hander who'd struggled to get through the middle innings this postseason.
"That's why they say momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher," said Lance Berkman, who had both of St. Louis' hits. "He was throwing 96 with good movement, had a good changeup and he threw strikes. He walked one guy so he didn't help us out. It was just a great performance."
St. Louis put only three others on base, all with walks. The Cardinals had two on with one out in the ninth against closer Neftali Feliz, with Pujols and cleanup hitter Matt Holliday coming up.
Pujols hit a line drive to center field that wasn't deep enough to advance the runners, then Holliday struck out swinging to end it.
"Sometimes you've got it going, sometimes you don't," Pujols said. "But you also have to give credit to the pitcher."
For Pujols, that shot in the ninth was as good as it got. After hitting three homers and driving in six runs the night before, he didn't even get the ball out of the infield his first three at-bats. In batting practice, he fell wildly taking a cut on a pitch and laughed it off, but the way things played out, it was as if his mojo was gone. For one night, at least.
"I got some good pitches to hit. I missed it," Pujols said. "That's part of the game."
The Cardinals are guaranteed of taking the World Series back to St. Louis. They'll have ace Chris Carpenter on the mound for Game 5 on Monday night in Texas, but the bats will have to come alive at least a little if they are to regain control of this series.
"It's tough to hit," Berkman said. "You could underhand it up there and guys are going to miss-hit it, much less when you've got a guy who has tremendous stuff. ... To me, most of it has to do with the pitching. If the pitching is good, the hitting is going to be tough."
Starter Edwin Jackson kept the Cardinals in the game, allowing only a run in the first inning before getting into trouble in the sixth. He put two on, then Mike Napoli crushed reliever Mitchell Boggs' first pitch for a three-run homer.
Yet St. Louis had its chances.
Berkman got into scoring position with a one-out double in the second inning, but was stranded when David Freese struck out and Yadier Molina grounded out.
Berkman led off the fifth with a single, only to get wiped out right away when Freese grounded into a double play.
Punto's walk came with one out in the sixth. Furcal fouled out and Allen Craig, who came through in clutch situations as a pinch-hitter in Games 1 and 2, struck out.
"It's tough when those borderline pitches are called strikes," Craig said. "But those are the breaks. You have to get over it."
Perhaps the most frustrating inning for La Russa and Cardinals fans was the seventh. Napoli's homer had just broken things open, but St. Louis had a great chance to tighten things up with its 3-4-5 hitters due up.
Instead, Pujols and Holliday hit grounders back to Holland, then Berkman struck out looking.
St. Louis led the National League with 4.7 runs per game and a .273 average. The Cardinals were shut out eight times in the regular season. This was its second one-run game this series and third of the postseason, although that includes a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia in the decisive fifth game of the AL division series.
St. Louis was last shut out in the World Series in Game 4 in 2004. The Cardinals got just four hits that night as the Boston Red Sox closed out a sweep.
"The ball wasn't carrying like it was last night," Punto said. "In this ballpark, you never expect to see 3-0, 4-0 games. We just got shut down by a great performance from Holland."
Earlier Sunday, Pujols had a chance to speak with Reggie Jackson _ just a simple chat between the only men alive who've hit three home runs in a single World Series game. Babe Ruth is the only other person who's done that, and he did it twice.
"It was real nice," Pujols said. "He was real humble. I just told him how blessed I was to be in the same list as him and Babe Ruth. He was really complimentary. I really appreciate for him to take the the time. He didn't have to do that. But that tells you right there what kind of man he is."
Officials from the Baseball Hall of Fame also spoke with Pujols on Sunday about getting a souvenir from his historic performance as part of their showcase, probably both for this postseason and the permanent exhibit.
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