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After a well-struck first-inning groundout, Pujols produced five straight hits off five pitchers in his next nine swings, good for six runs batted in and 14 total bases. The five hits (Paul Molitor, 1982) and six RBIs (Bobby Richardson in 1960 and Hideki Matsui in 2009) tied World Series records, and the 14 total bases shattered the previous Series single-game mark of 12 (Ruth and Jackson). "What it means," says Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire, "is move over, Mr. October. There's a new Mr. October."
Pujols smashed a small mountain's worth of homers—1,226 feet to be exact, or the precise elevation of Little Mount Grace in Warwick, Mass. His first, a 423-foot sortie rudely interrupted by the facing of the leftfield upper deck at Rangers Ballpark, left even his teammates in awe, for Pujols turned around a 96-mph fastball from Texas righthander Alexi Ogando that was above the top of the strike zone on the inside half of the plate. Says Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, "To not just get that ball, but to hit it with backspin and hit it that far is amazing. It's hard to hit a ball that far in BP. There's not a lot of guys, if anybody else, who can do that. He may be the only one."
"The Ogando homer," infielder Skip Schumaker said when asked to pick out his favorite Pujols masterpiece, referring to the shot by name as if it were The Starry Night in the Van Gogh oeuvre. "The guy was throwing a thousand miles an hour."
While Pujols was readying to bat in the ninth, with the Cardinals leading 15--7 and the game and his might no longer in doubt, rookie outfielder Adron Chambers went up to him in the dugout and said, "You might as well go up there and hit another one." Pujols just looked at Chambers and gave a little laugh. Then he went up and hit a parting shot, a 397-foot coda, as modest as his homers came but still a no-doubter, off lefthander Darren Oliver.
"I ran up and hugged him," Chambers says. "I mean, I can't believe it. He hit another one like it was just that easy. To be here and be able to see it? Wow. I'm lucky."
As he left the clubhouse, pitcher Adam Wainwright said, "I'm going back and playing MLB The Show, and I'm going to be Albert Pujols."
Said Pujols after his magnum opus performance, "Hopefully at the end of my career I can look back and say, 'Wow, what a game it was in Game 3 in 2011.' But as of right now, it's great to get this win and just move on pretty much and get ready to play tomorrow."
Neither La Russa nor Pujols is under contract with the Cardinals for next year—the manager has a mutual option with the team, and the slugger will become a free agent next week—though St. Louis wants both back to continue what has become a long, familial run. The first time La Russa saw Pujols was at an Instructional League game in Jupiter, Fla., back in 1999, the year the Cardinals selected him in the 13th round of the draft.
"There are certain players the front office lets you know about that have a chance to be special," says La Russa, who took over as manager in 1996. "They told me Albert was one of those players. The first time I saw him, he hit a home run. He got my attention. He was a little heavy then, not a great body. The next time I saw him was in the Arizona Fall League the next year, and you could see he had worked hard to get in shape."
Pujols made the Cardinals' Opening Day roster in 2001, the first of his 11 seasons under La Russa. They are inexorably linked, personally and professionally, and a second world championship together would cement their shared iconic status, like Torre and Jeter, Anderson and Bench, Alston and Koufax, Stengel and Mantle. No National League manager has won a second World Series since Tommy Lasorda of the Dodgers in 1988.