ST. LOUIS -- What is up with Albert Pujols?
That question has become a hot topic among Cardinals fans, who have watched the three-time National League Most Valuable Player struggle at the plate this season with a .231 batting average after 30 games.
Pujols' last extra-base hit, his seventh home run of the season, came back on April 23 against the Reds. He's gone 34 at-bats since, and has just six hits and two RBIs during that stretch, and his batting average has dropped 19 points from .250.
Manager Tony La Russa was asked on Tuesday night, after Pujols went 0-for-5 in a 7-5 win over the Marlins, if he was concerned about the first baseman's struggles.
"I see him put the ball on the barrel," La Russa said. "As long as he doesn't get discouraged. He's too strong mentality. But he's a human being. I'm sure he's frustrated at times. He hits the ball hard into a double play. He hits the ball hard to center field. He'll be fine because he's smart and tough-minded. He won't allow himself to be less than his best."
Pujols' seven home runs rank second on the Cardinals (behind Lance Berkman's nine), his 19 RBIs rank third (behind Berkman's 27 and Matt Holliday's 20) and his 22 runs scored rank third (behind Berkman and Holliday, who both have 24). Pujols has played a team-high 30 games.