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Pujols tired of just homering, now calling his shots

Albert Pujols went 4-for-5 with two homers, a double, and six RBIs yesterday, including a game-breaking grand slam that he apparently “called” shortly before the at-bat:

After opening the third inning with a fly out, Pujols returned to the Cardinals clubhouse to review video. There he predicted to assistant hitting coach Mike Aldrete that his next at-bat would ricochet off the yet-to-open Royals Hall of Fame behind the visitors bullpen in left field. “He didn’t say he might hit the Hall of Fame. He said he would hit the Hall of Fame,” Aldrete recalled.

Pujols returned in the fourth inning against Royals starting pitcher Gil Meche with the bases loaded and one out in a 4-4 game. Pujols and Meche reached a full count. By then Meche had shown Pujols every pitch in his repertoire except a change-up. When Meche finally threw the pitch, Pujols swatted it some 423 feet off a Hall of Fame window.

Not quite Babe Ruth territory, but amusing nonetheless. Actually, my favorite part of the whole story is how Pujols’ teammates reacted when asked about his grand slam after the game. Here are some examples ...

Kyle McClellan: “If it’s 3-2 and he gets a strike, he’s going to hit it. He’s going to drive it. There’s not a question.”

Adam Wainwright: “Face it, I’m playing with the best player of all time. It’s ridiculous. You almost have to focus on what you’re doing because you can get caught up in what he’s doing. He’s that good.”

Khalil Greene: “He makes it look easy. I mean, how many guys in the league try to do that?”

Skip Schumaker: “After the second home run we just laughed. It’s just so easy. It’s a higher level. It’s like he’s here and everybody else is at Triple-A.”

One of the surest signs of greatness is when the amazing becomes routine, and judging by those quotes from his teammates Pujols has definitely reached that stage. Even setting aside the whole “called shot” aspect yesterday’s grand slam was his third in four at-bats with the bases loaded this season and tied him with Stan Musial for the most in Cardinals history with nine.

Pujols is hitting .329 and leads the league in on-base percentage (.448), slugging percentage (.722), and OPS (1.169) while being on a 60-homer, 160-RBI pace. As manager Tony La Russa put it: “He does it over and over again. It’s impossible to describe how great he is.”