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Albert Pujols plays Home Run Derby at Wrigley Field

Rumors of Albert Pujols being a machine have been greatly exaggerated.

Try telling that to the Cubs, who got an up-close-and-personal look at

the best hitter in the game blasting three home runs Sunday afternoon as

his St. Louis Cardinals breezed to a 9-1 victory at Wrigley Field.

But the whispers — and they’d have to be whispers for fear of

sounding insane to anyone hearing them — of Pujols’ power struggles had

been circulating before the first baseman put on his own personal home

run derby.

He came in with just two home runs since April 25 — a very

un-Pujols-like streak. The homer-sparse stretch had some wondering if

there was a problem with his swing, health or if there was any other

explanation for him hitting like a mere mortal.

“That’s going to happen sometimes,” Pujols said. “People are going

to try and be geniuses and figure it out. Nobody knows myself better

than God and myself how I feel and what I’m capable to do day in and day

out.”

What he was capable of Sunday was a bleachers-clearing two-run home

run to left-center in the first, another two-run shot in the fifth and a

third round-tripper that nestled its way into the basket in dead

center.

Not a bad day’s work.

“It doesn’t matter if it goes just over

the fence like I hit my last one of if it goes 500 feet or 400, as long

as it goes over the wall, it feels good,” Pujols said.

“If

you’re a baseball fanatic like I am, you recognize greatness,” Cardinals

manager Tony La Russa said. “I’ve tried to explain his greatness so our

fans don’t ever take him for granted, because he is a great, great

baseball player. Everyday I watch him swing, I think, ‘Wow, it’s a

privilege.'”

It was the fourth three-homer game in Pujols’ career and his first

since 2006. His four RBIs moved him past Enos Slaughter and into second on

the franchise’s all-time RBI list. His 23 home runs at Wrigley Field put

him second among active players (Adam Dunn, 25).

His at-bat in the fifth inning showed just how impossible a task

facing him can be. He worked Cubs starter Ryan Dempster to a full count,

fouling of a handful of pitches before hitting his second homer.

“He’s

got pretty good stuff,” Pujols said of Dempster. “You can’t guess

because he’s got three pitches he can put you away. When a guy’s that

good like that, have pretty good stuff, you just need to go by your

skill, what you have and be able to trust yourself.”

“Albert’s a great two-strike hitter,” La Russa said of Pujols’

battle at the plate. “He’s got a lot of ways he goes to save the at-bat.

To end up with that result is another sign of his greatness.”

Pujols said he’s confident in his abilities, even in the midst of what

has qualified as a down period for him.

And as for those trying

to find answers for it?

“I’m still in the lineup and playing

everyday,” Pujols said. “I told you guys in Spring Training, I told you

guys earlier in the year, you never play this game 100 percent. Everyday

something bothers you. It could be a hamstring, it could be a shoulder

… anything. It’s hard to play this game 100 percent, not even the

first game of Spring Training because you train so hard something is

sore. I just don’t like when people try to figure out what’s going on

with me because maybe I’m struggling at the plate and hitting .305 or

maybe because I haven’t hit a home run in such a many at-bats. People

try to figure out that.

“I wish those people that are writing and talking, I wish they could

out there just for one day. I give them one day to grab a bat and I

give you four at-bats or eight at-bats and I bet you won’t be able to

hit the ball out of the ballpark or even make contact against some of

these guys in the Big Leagues. I think sometimes people take that for

granted. They think that we are automatic, they think we are supposed to

hit the ball out every time, they think that you can’t struggle in this

game. I believe that, you know what, sometimes things happen for a

reason and I can’t control what other people say, all I can control is

myself.”