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may flowers

albert's final line for the month:

ab r h 2b 3b hr bi w avg obp slg
pujols 4/06 81 27 28 4 0 14 32 28 .346 .509 .914

i've updated the tables from yesterday's "greatest months" post and included some add'l comparisons (ted williams, mickey mantle, rogers hornsby and others). if you missed that one (a lot of you did), the gist is that pujols' april is almost surely the greatest offensive month in cardinal history -- not just the greatest april, but the greatest one-month stretch, period. and it ranks right up there with the best of all time, as far as can be determined.

the game that launched albert's month into special territory was the april 16 game, in which he completed a three-homer performance with a two-run walkoff shot to give the cardinals a dramatic 8-7 win over the reds. the following day, i wrote:

sometimes a game like this will get a team going. st louis didn't pitch particularly well, didn't hit when it counted (mostly), and made fielding and baserunning mistakes that should have cost them the game -- but they won anyway, simply because one player was too stubborn or stupid to quit. such a win can have a cathartic effect -- a multitude of sins forgiven, souls purged, consciences wiped clean -- and settle things down, where a standard get-lead-hold-lead one-run win might simply keep ev'yone on edge. if the cards' play becomes a tad more crisp in the coming days, the talking heads will point to this game. they might also point to the schedule, which features 10 games against pittsburgh (off to a 4-10 start) and washington (4-9) in the next two weeks. in 2004-05 the cardinals methodically crushed this sort of opposition; a 9-4 or 10-3 run here might help the 2006 cardinals look a little less like some cheap, shiny, plasticky concession-stand toy.
they went 10-3.

and yes, they did settle down and play tighter baseball. they committed 10 errors in the 12 games before april 16, but just 6 in the 13 games after that date. probably more important, the bullpen cleaned up its act after a very sloppy first two weeks. here's what the relievers did through april 16, and what they've done since:

ip h w so era whip losses
thru 4/16 34.1 28 19 24 3.93 1.37 3
since 4/16 33.2 19 10 22 1.60 0.86 0

the knowledge that pujols is around to erase any mistakes might take some pressure off a reliever, i guess.

it's a good thing the cardinals exploited this soft spot in their schedule, because the opposition now stiffens. this week alone they'll face bronson arroyo (4-0 with a 2.34 era this year), roy oswalt, andy pettitte, and dontrelle willis. half their games in may are against teams that played .600 or better in april; they play both of the other division leaders this month, the mets and the (!) colorado rockies. but then, they also have six games against the two worst teams in baseball, the royals and marlins.

is anthony reyes injured again? his regular turn should have been friday against iowa, but john webb pitched out of turn; both weekend games were rained out, but for the doubleheader sunday the starting pitchers were listed as randy leek and alan benes -- the latter of whom hasn't been in the rotation all season. . . . . reyes hasn't pitched since april 21. i'll see what if anything i can find out today.