Cardinals rest Albert Pujols

NEW YORK -- Albert Pujols was given a rest in the New York heat against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he decided to give Pujols a breather Wednesday night against the Mets in part because the slugger has been swinging well lately and he didn't want Dickey's dancing knuckler to throw off Pujols' timing.

"I told him that I don't think like that," Pujols said. "Maybe he's going back to when I was in spring training and I struck out twice against the guy. So I don't know, but that was one of the first games in spring training. I told him that I feel good, that I can play and my timing, I don't think one game is going to screw up your swing. But he's the manager and he made that decision and I have to respect that."

Lance Berkman replaced Pujols at first base and Jon Jay started in Berkman's usual spot, right field. It was the first time Pujols didn't start since he came off the disabled list July 5.

Pujols entered as a pinch-hitter with a runner on third in the top of the seventh inning. He fouled out against reliever Pedro Beato, keeping the score tied at 4.

The teams are scheduled to play at 12:10 p.m. on Thursday, with expected temperatures in the mid-90s accompanied by sweltering humidity. St. Louis began a stretch of playing on 20 consecutive days with Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Mets.

In that game, Pujols went 0-for-4 and grounded into a pair of double plays. He has bounced into a major league-high 22 double plays this season, putting him on pace to break Hall of Famer Jim Rice's major league record of 36 in 1984.

"That'd be good. I hope I can get that record," Pujols said with a smile. "If I'm going to put myself in the record book, that would be one of the things to do."

The three-time NL MVP said all those DPs don't bother him at all.

"When you put the ball in play, those are the chances you're going to take," Pujols said. "Putting the ball in play, that's what it's all about. I prefer to do that than a guy going out there and striking out 100, 200 times."

All-Star catcher Yadier Molina was also rested Wednesday night. La Russa said he might give Berkman a breather Thursday.