Pujols led Cards with 9 RBI in NLCS

ST. LOUIS -- At last, Albert Pujols is second to no one.

Runnerup in National League Most Valuable Player voting the last
two seasons, Pujols was an obvious choice as MVP of the NL
Championship Series after the St. Louis Cardinals' clinching 5-2
Game 7 victory Thursday night over the Houston Astros.

"It's every little boy's dream," Pujols said. "I'm glad to
have won the MVP, but that trophy is going to stay right in this
room. Because everybody here is MVP."

Pujols tied the game with an RBI double that punctured the
mystique of 42-year-old Astros ace Roger Clemens in the sixth
inning, and scored the eventual winning run when Scott Rolen drove
the next pitch over the left-field wall.

Clemens was actually more worried about Rolen. He said there was
no notion of pitching around Pujols.

"No, no, not at all," Clemens said. "At that point, I thought
Rolen was taking better swings."

The Rocket was ahead 1-2 in the count when Pujols drove a
fastball down the left-field line to score Roger Cedeno with the
tying run.

The hitters surrounding Pujols makes the Cardinals' No. 3 batter even
more dangerous. Rolen, the cleanup hitter, was second in the NL
with 124 RBI, and Larry Walker, the No. 2 hitter, is a three-time
batting champion.

"As far as Albert Pujols is concerned, he's a terrific
hitter," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "What makes the lineup
so tough is there's other guys in the lineup that can beat you,

The Cardinals, who won a major league-best 105 games this year
and now will play in their first World Series in 17 years, were
used to such clutch work from Pujols.

He hit .500 (14-for-28) in the NLCS with four homers and a
team-leading nine RBI.

In Game 6, he had a homer, double and single, scored three times
and drove in two runs to help the Cardinals right themselves after
losing three straight in Houston.

He also had three hits and three RBI in Game 4, including a
two-run homer, and was 3-for-4 with another homer in Game 2. He
tacked on a single for good measure in the eighth inning of the
decisive Game 7.

It was nothing unusual for the 2001 NL rookie of the year and
2003 NL batting champion.

Year after year, Pujols has put up gaudy numbers. He's the third
player to reach 500 RBI in his first four seasons, joining Hall of
Famers Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, and he's the first player to
start his career with four consecutive 30-homer seasons.

In spring training he became the highest-paid player in
franchise history with a seven-year, $100 million contract, and he
went on to hit .331 with 46 homers and 123 RBI.

"It was a typical case of a guy that got a big contract and
hasn't let up at all," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "He's
trying to find ways to get better."