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Albert Pujols plays Home Run Derby at Wrigley Field

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albert-pujols-home-run.jpgRumors of Albert Pujols being a machine have been greatly exaggerated.

Try telling that to the Cubs, who got an up-close-and-personal look at the best hitter in the game blasting three home runs Sunday afternoon as his St. Louis Cardinals breezed to a 9-1 victory at Wrigley Field.

But the whispers -- and they'd have to be whispers for fear of sounding insane to anyone hearing them -- of Pujols' power struggles had been circulating before the first baseman put on his own personal home run derby.

He came in with just two home runs since April 25 -- a very un-Pujols-like streak. The homer-sparse stretch had some wondering if there was a problem with his swing, health or if there was any other explanation for him hitting like a mere mortal.

"That's going to happen sometimes," Pujols said. "People are going to try and be geniuses and figure it out. Nobody knows myself better than God and myself how I feel and what I'm capable to do day in and day out."

What he was capable of Sunday was a bleachers-clearing two-run home run to left-center in the first, another two-run shot in the fifth and a third round-tripper that nestled its way into the basket in dead center.

Not a bad day's work.

"It doesn't matter if it goes just over the fence like I hit my last one of if it goes 500 feet or 400, as long as it goes over the wall, it feels good," Pujols said.

"If you're a baseball fanatic like I am, you recognize greatness," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I've tried to explain his greatness so our fans don't ever take him for granted, because he is a great, great baseball player. Everyday I watch him swing, I think, 'Wow, it's a privilege.'"

It was the fourth three-homer game in Pujols' career and his first since 2006. His four RBIs moved him past Enos Slaughter and into second on the franchise's all-time RBI list. His 23 home runs at Wrigley Field put him second among active players (Adam Dunn, 25).

His at-bat in the fifth inning showed just how impossible a task facing him can be. He worked Cubs starter Ryan Dempster to a full count, fouling of a handful of pitches before hitting his second homer.

"He's got pretty good stuff," Pujols said of Dempster. "You can't guess because he's got three pitches he can put you away. When a guy's that good like that, have pretty good stuff, you just need to go by your skill, what you have and be able to trust yourself."

"Albert's a great two-strike hitter," La Russa said of Pujols' battle at the plate. "He's got a lot of ways he goes to save the at-bat. To end up with that result is another sign of his greatness."

Pujols said he's confident in his abilities, even in the midst of what has qualified as a down period for him.

And as for those trying to find answers for it?

"I'm still in the lineup and playing everyday," Pujols said. "I told you guys in Spring Training, I told you guys earlier in the year, you never play this game 100 percent. Everyday something bothers you. It could be a hamstring, it could be a shoulder ... anything. It's hard to play this game 100 percent, not even the first game of Spring Training because you train so hard something is sore. I just don't like when people try to figure out what's going on with me because maybe I'm struggling at the plate and hitting .305 or maybe because I haven't hit a home run in such a many at-bats. People try to figure out that.

"I wish those people that are writing and talking, I wish they could out there just for one day. I give them one day to grab a bat and I give you four at-bats or eight at-bats and I bet you won't be able to hit the ball out of the ballpark or even make contact against some of these guys in the Big Leagues. I think sometimes people take that for granted. They think that we are automatic, they think we are supposed to hit the ball out every time, they think that you can't struggle in this game. I believe that, you know what, sometimes things happen for a reason and I can't control what other people say, all I can control is myself."

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I was at the game on Sunday at Wrigley, but on the first base line. Where did Pujol's first 2 home runs land? Did either cross Waveland on the fly?

Pujols is a machine. I just hope he isn't busted as a performance enhanced machine. Then I stop watching baseball forever.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyle Koster published on May 31, 2010 8:34 AM.

Lou Piniella: Tom Gorzelanny to bullpen, Carlos Zambrano to start Wednesday was the previous entry in this blog.

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