That was one of the most impressive home runs I've ever seen hit, by Pujols last night.
Incredible game. The perfect example of how often individual games come down to just a few plays that could go either way.
The first three runs of the game were all driven in on two-out bloop hits, the types of balls that aren't well hit but just find the gap between the infield and the outfield.
Lance Berkman's home run was set up by a hit-and-run grounder from Chris Burke, that could have been a DP ball if the runner isn't going, or that could have been a ground out if the shortstop is covering second base on that play. And if that play is a groundout, instead of a single, meaning two outs and a runner on second, does Carpenter even pitch to Berkman, or does he walk him (or pitch around him) to get to Ensberg?
And there were a couple of interesting, more subtle things about the Pujols homer that won the game, as well.
First of all, as with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks comeback against Mariano Rivera, we see once again that great pitching doesn't always beat great hitting. The best reliever in the National League had a two run lead, no one on, two outs, and two strikes on David Eckstein, and he couldn't nail down the win. And the reason why? Because Eckstein did a great job fighting back while down in the count and getting on base, and because two great hitters -- Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols -- had great at bats against a great pitcher.
Secondly, if the Cards had gone down 1-2-3 in the 9th, Albert Pujols would have been one of the biggest goats of the game. The best hitter in the playoffs had a chance to give the Cards the lead in the first inning, with two on and none out, and Pettitte struggling to find the strike zone. Instead of working the count, Pujols jumped on the first pitch, popped out to left, and those two runners ended up stranded.
Third inning, same situation. The first two batters singled, giving Pujols runners on the corners with none out. And once again, he failed, striking out against Pettitte. The Cards ultimately got two runners home, on a two-out, bases-loaded bloop single from Mark Grudzielanek, but what could have been a huge inning, if Pujols comes through there, ended up being something of a missed opportunity.
Seventh inning, the Cards looking for an insurance run, Pujols comes up with one out (thanks to Eckstein getting picked off by Pettitte on what should have been called a balk) and a runner on first. Pujols hits a rocket, but right at Ensberg, who throws Pujols out at first. Once again, Pujols doesn't come through.
So up until the point Pujols had come to the plate in the ninth inning of last night's game, he had been a failure, a major reason why the Cards were going to lose game 5 and get knocked out of the NLCS.
And yet, one hanging Brad Lidge slider, one majestic moonshot, and Albert Pujols is a hero.
It is amazing how quickly things can change...