"Just try to hit the ball solid," La Russa said, recalling what he told Ludwick. "Don't worry about your power numbers. You hit it solid and you're going to get doubles and triples and home runs."
And as his manager predicted, Ludwick's power returned on Friday night.
Ludwick's third-inning grand slam off Royals starter Kyle Davies gave St. Louis a 6-1 lead and set the tone for the rest of the I-70 Series this weekend.
The Cardinals are in town, and they're here to hit.
You can start with the numbers. The Cardinals scored 10 runs on 14 hits, pounding Davies for eight in 2 2/3 innings.
Rick Ankiel and Khalil Greene, who was starting his first game since May 27, followed Ludwick's lead with back-to-back solo shots in the third. Colby Rasmus had a career-high four hits. And somewhere in there, Albert Pujols scored his 1,000th-career run.
Greene did had to leave the game in the fifth after fouling a ball off his left foot. And Pujols exited after five frames with a big lead to get some rest on a hot and humid night in Kansas City. But Greene said he'd be find to play on Thursday, and, hey, there was no ruining this day.
"It was a great day all around for the St. Louis Cardinals," Ludwick said.
Pujols got the Cards started early with a two-run single in the first, but the real fun started in the top of the third. Leading, 2-1, Skip Schumaker started a six-run rally with a single to right. Rasmus followed with another single to right, and when Jose Guillen tried to cut down Schumaker at third, Rasmus glided into second. With first base open, Davies intentionally walked Pujols.
What seemed like a wise decision turned disastrous when Ludwick clubbed his first-career grand slam 393 feet into the left-field seats.
"There's nowhere to put Ludwick, so they got to come after him," La Russa said. "It's a pitcher's problem and a hitter's plus."
The slam came at an opportune time for Ludwick, who has struggled to find the power stroke that helped him to career numbers in 2008.
Pitchers have been adjusting, Ludwick said.
"I don't see the 3-1 cookie heater all the time like I used to see," he said.
Maybe Ludwick saw some light on Friday. Maybe the slam will be the jolt he needs to get back on track.
"I know it's going to turn around," Ludwick said. "By no means do I think I'm a .230 hitter."
All the offensive fireworks from Ludwick and the rest of the bats overshadowed a solid effort from starter Brad Thompson. Thompson improved to 2-2, while allowing four runs in seven innings.
After giving up a leadoff homer to David DeJesus in the bottom of the first, Thompson gave up just one more run in the next five innings before surrendering a two-run homer to Miguel Olivo in the bottom of the seventh.
"Long ball hurt me a couple of times today," Thompson said. "Didn't really plan out this game starting out with a home run, but settled down after that and it ended up being a good outing."
And Thompson didn't need to be perfect. His offense was clicking, and all he needed to do was grind.
"It was amazing seeing everybody swing the bat today," Thompson said. "It was fun to see Luddy hitting the grand slam, and Khalil and all the guys pitching in. It was a fun game today."
The Cardinals added two runs in the fifth off Royals reliever Jamey Wright to take a 10-2 lead as the hits continued to pile up.
Schumaker and Rasmus combined for seven hits and four runs.
"The two guys at the top had three or four hits and a walk," La Russa said. "That changes the game. Pitchers have to come after you more, and if you get a base hit there's damage."