Pujols knocks in run in solid return to lineup

Pujols knocks in run in solid return to lineup

Pujols knocks in run in solid return to lineup
ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols' first hit since returning from the disabled list wasn't his hardest-hit ball, but it got the job done on Wednesday night.

The Cardinals slugger stepped to plate in the seventh inning, representing the go-ahead run, and as he walked toward the batter's box, the theme song from "Jaws" pulsated through the Busch Stadium speakers. The three-time National League Most Valuable Player then hit a bloop single over the head of Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, driving in Ryan Theriot to pull the Cards within one run, 8-7, and bring the crowd to its feet.

Pujols went 1-for-6 in the Cardinals' 9-8 loss to the Reds but hit the ball sharply four times, though it was his weakest cut that did the most damage.

"The worst swing that I took tonight I got a base-hit RBI," Pujols said.

Pujols made his first start one day after being activated from the disabled list. He missed 15 days with a small fracture near his left wrist. The injury occurred during a collision at first base on June 19 against the Royals.

Two weeks ago, it was almost unfathomable that Pujols would be on the field before the All-Star break. In a news conference the day after the injury, the Cardinals estimated Pujols' recovery time at six weeks and thought his wrist would need to be in a splint for at least four. Yet, Pujols began hitting one week later on June 27 and was back in the lineup two weeks after the injury.

"It's good to be back, I was pretty excited with the way I swung the bat," Pujols said.

Pujols wore a brace on his left wrist to run the bases after his RBI single. He only needs to wear the brace on the basepaths -- to protect the wrist in case of an awkward slide.

Pujols did not have any trouble fielding first base and looked comfortable with the glove, though he chose not to make a diving attempt to his right on a ground ball in the hole.

"I think I should have dove and had it," Pujols said.

While Pujols didn't get great results out of all of his at-bats, he showed no signs of any lingering effects from the injury.

"He hit four balls on the nose," said manager Tony La Russa. "He was on everything, I thought he was outstanding."

Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.