The thing is, when both of those things happen, the Cardinals don't need a big night from Pujols. Such was the case on Wednesday night in an 11-3 win over the Padres at PETCO Park.
Skip Schumaker and Aaron Miles combined for seven base hits in the two lineup positions in front of Pujols, while Ryan Ludwick and Troy Glaus combined for six RBIs in the two spots behind the slugger. The result was a convincing victory and another data point in what appears to be a warming trend for a previously chilled Cardinals offense.
"Everybody getting some hits and leaving with a smile on their face, a win, that's what you want going into the off-day," said Miles.
The 11 runs equaled the Redbirds' season high, as did 16 base hits. An early-May offensive swoon has been replaced by a surge in recent days. The Cardinals have scored 35 runs in their past five games, after totaling 35 in the 10 contests before that.
Pujols went 1-for-5 with a run, but was at the center of the night's unfortunately defining moment. With runners on first and second in the third inning, he hit a comebacker that struck San Diego starter Chris Young in the face.
Young sustained a broken and lacerated nose and was removed from the game. Pujols later came around to score, and on his slide into home plate, Padres catcher Josh Bard received a sprained ankle. The slugger was clearly bothered by the two plays for the rest of the night, and he was removed in the eighth inning.
"He [manager Tony La Russa] knew it was bothering me as soon as I scored," Pujols said. "That decision, I didn't have any problem with it. I know it was bothering me. It's still bothering me. I think it's going to bother me the next couple days. Get a day off tomorrow, hopefully forget about it. Hopefully I hear back from Chris and make sure he's OK."
It was likely the pivotal play in the game for more reasons than one. Upon Young's removal from the game, the Cardinals began to feast on San Diego relief pitching. Three runs scored in the third, and the Redbirds plated three more in the fourth.
They kept adding on as the game went on, capped by Rick Ankiel's pinch-homer in the eighth. Ankiel hadn't played since Friday as he dealt with a sore right shoulder.
The Cardinals got five runs from the top three batters in their order, and nine RBIs from the men who started in positions four through seven. That's the way the offense is supposed to work, but until recently it's not how things had been going. St. Louis had been getting plenty of runners, but not plating them.
"We've had the opportunities. ... I would be more alarmed had we not had opportunities," Glaus said. "The fact that they're happening, it was just a matter of time before we got four or five or six hits with runners in scoring position."
St. Louis fell behind early, 2-0, but starter Braden Looper toughed out five innings on a night when he wasn't at his best. Looper got help from a split-finger pitch that he used to greater effect in his last couple of innings, as well as from a spectacular catch.
Holding a 6-3 lead with two out in the fifth, Looper allowed a deep line drive to Kevin Kouzmanoff -- the same man who beat the Cardinals with a three-run homer on Tuesday night. Schumaker tracked it into the gap in right-center and made a dazzling, diving catch on the warning track to end the inning.
"The timing of that catch was big, with Looper kind of laboring a little bit that inning," Schumaker said. "He's been beating us deep the last couple games, so I was playing him a little deeper and luckily I ran it down."
St. Louis has won four out of five games after dropping eight of its previous 10. The Cardinals pulled within one game of first-place Chicago in the National League Central after the Cubs again lost to the Astros.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.