Keeping Prince Albert In The Can
By Joe McDonald
FLUSHING, NY - It's not going to be easy for the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals, even with their late season slump, will be a tougher opponent than the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But New York, which was 4-2 against the Cards in the regular season, can take its Arch Enemy if the Amazins' make sure they contain Albert Pujols.
"[Pujols] is the guy that obviously we're going to identify in their lineup as trying not to allow him to beat us," said Game 1 starter Tom Glavine. "The best laid plans go awry sometimes. The game is a game and things happen and you can't always execute your plan as perfectly as you'd like to. In a perfect world, Albert comes up with two outs and nobody on, or leading off an inning. But there's a pretty good chance before this is all over we're going to have to face him with runners on base."
The reigning National League Most Valuable Player has a similar year in 2006 when he hit .331 with 49 home runs and 137 RBI. His feared right handed bat can change a game with one swing, which is something the Mets know too well.
New York kept Pujols in check during the regular season and he hit only .250 with two home runs and nine RBI in 22 at bats. But his damage came on August 22 when he hit two home runs off Game 2 starter John Maine. Only a miracle comeback by the Mets vaulted offense - including a walkoff home run by Carlos Beltran - gave the Mets an 8-7 victory.
So, the Mets need to be careful with the slugger. They need to back him off the plate and then get him out away. Also unless the game is on the line, try and force him to swing at bad pitches. But that may not be enough.
"There's some guys you really can't handle, you just try to contain him a little bit," said catcher Paul Lo Duca. "It's a seven-game series, so you have to pitch him at some time. He's the kind of guy that you just can't let beat you. You want to be able to go to bed at night - but there's no disrespect, because the guys behind him are great players, but he's the kind of guy you want to go to bed at night knowing he didn't beat you."
Manager Willie Randolph says the Mets will go after Pujols, but won't let the slugger be the one to beat his team.
"You don't want the big boy to hurt you or anything like that, so that's a good possibility [we will walk him], but we'll wait until we get to that point," the manager said. "It's safe to say he's one of the guys you don't want to hurt you.
I won't etch it in stone, but yeah, if you have a situation where he can hurt you and it's a big situation, yeah, it's smart to probably walk him, yeah."
If the Mets are successful in containing Pujols, they will force the Cards to come up with another hero. With both Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen nursing injuries, St. Louis will have to rely on their role players, which gives the Mets a distinct advantage.