Pujols shaken up on controversial play in fifth

Pujols shaken up on controversial play in fifth

MILWAUKEE -- Having already seen a collision cost their All-Star first baseman more than two weeks of playing time this summer, the Cardinals were holding their breath when Albert Pujols went down again in the fifth inning on Sunday.

There, just outside the first-base line, was Pujols, writhing in pain. He had just fielded a grounder and made a lunging tag of Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, who tried to beat Pujols to the bag by diving into it headfirst. A run scored while first-base umpire Gary Darling ruled Braun out, though replays did not corroborate the call.

As Braun expressed his displeasure to Darling, attention quickly shifted to Pujols, who, after making the tag, rolled on the ground in pain. He did not immediately get back up, though he remained in the game as the Cards finished off the National League Championship Series with a 12-6 victory.

"I know Albert is no drama king, so when he goes down, you know something is hurting, and you fear the worst," said manager Tony La Russa, who, along with assistant trainer Barry Weinberg, rushed onto the field.

Pujols had been spiked on his right forearm by Braun. Reliever Marc Rzepczynski, who was hustling to cover first, stepped on Pujols' right knee while trying to avoid a collision. The visit by Weinberg was short, and Pujols remained on the field.

"It didn't feel too good," Pujols said. "But as long as I can walk, I'm going to stay in the game."

Pujols, speaking inside a celebratory clubhouse after his team beat the Brewers to reach the World Series, said his knee was still sore. He was, at times, seen favoring his left leg as the Cardinals closed out the series. But asked if the injury could affect his status moving forward, Pujols put to rest any doubt about his availability for the Fall Classic.

"This is the postseason," said Pujols, who finished the game with two RBI hits, including his second home run of the NLCS. "Nothing hurts. You don't think about getting hurt, you think about making the play. If you get hurt, you get hurt trying something."

The Cards open the World Series at Busch Stadium against the Rangers on Wednesday.

Pujols has been largely injury-free throughout his career, though he did miss more than two weeks during the regular season when he broke a bone at the end of his left forearm, near the wrist.

In addition to providing a brief scare to the visitors' side, the fifth-inning play partially snuffed out a Brewers rally. With his club trailing, 11-5, at the start of the inning, Braun was the first of eight straight batters retired by the St. Louis bullpen.

"I don't know if it was a turning point or not," Braun said. "That's a tough call for an umpire. I was safe, but I give Albert credit. He made a great play on that. I don't think that was necessarily a turning point, but it was kind of indicative of everything that happened in the series.

"It seemed like they clearly played better than us, but every break went their way, every call went their way. I think when you end up winning games and winning a series, you look back and there were things that went your way. When you look back and you lose, you feel like everything went against you."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.