After posting a 7.41 ERA in eight appearances last year for the Cardinals, a more confident Boggs made his first start of the season on Saturday afternoon against the rival Cubs and didn't disappoint. The right-hander allowed one unearned run on six hits in 5 2/3 innings to help lead St. Louis to an 8-2 win over Chicago.
It was the fourth win of Boggs' career and the first since June 28 of last year at Kansas City.
"I feel a lot more confident about myself right now," Boggs said. "I feel more comfortable around here. These guys have accepted me. Last year, they were great teammates, too, but this year, I just feel like I belong here. If I do the things that I am capable of doing, I know I can help this team win."
Albert Pujols provided the offensive punch, connecting for his second grand slam of the season in the seventh inning. The 441-foot shot to left field gave Pujols 1,002 RBIs for his career, making him the 23rd active player to reach the 1,000-RBI mark and moving him into fifth place on the Cardinals' all-time list.
Boggs cruised through the first four innings, but ran into trouble in the fifth. After an error kept the inning alive with two outs, Ryan Theriot followed with a single to left that cut the Cardinals' lead to 3-1. A single by Kosuke Fukudome then brought the dangerous Alfonso Soriano to the plate as the potential go-ahead run.
But Boggs didn't fold, and the rookie got Soriano to swing and miss at three straight sliders to end the threat and keep the Cardinals on top.
"He's as dangerous a hitter as there is in Major League Baseball," Boggs said. "He hits every pitch. He doesn't have a weakness. What I had going for me is that he was really aggressive and I was able to make some pitches down. He was trying to change the game and I was fortunate enough that he went after a couple."
Boggs finished with three strikeouts and a walk. After making six starts last year, including a game at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, a national television audience on FOX and a start in the heated Cubs-Cardinals rivalry didn't seem to faze the Dalton, Ga., native one bit.
"He has more experience, no doubt," said his catcher, Yadier Molina. "And it shows. He looks like he has a lot more experience and a lot more confidence. He kept the ball down. He pitched pretty good."
The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on an RBI double by Khalil Greene before Brian Barden followed with a two-run single to left that made it 3-0.
Pujols' home run to left in the seventh off the Cubs' Davis Patton put the game out of reach at 7-1.
As for Boggs, he probably earned himself a few more starts as the Redbirds look to fill the hole left when Chris Carpenter landed on the disabled list last week.
"He's got the things that you look for," said manager Tony La Russa. "He's got enough talent. Everybody that has ever had him in the Minor Leagues always talks about how tough he competes."
And after worrying last year about fitting in with his teammates, a more relaxed Boggs is ready to do what he's on the team to do.
"Last year, I was more worried about doing the right thing when I went to go get my postgame meal than focusing on pitching," Boggs said. "You want to be accepted and do things right, because there's a way to do things here. Having that experience last year and knowing what to do off the field, now I can focus on doing what I need to do to be successful on the field. I feel like if I do the things that I am capable of doing, then I will be all right."
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.