MILWAUKEE -- Beast Mode, indeed.
While that celebratory two-handed gesture belongs to the Brewers, who flash it as frequently as Jose Reyes did The Claw, there was only one true beast at Miller Park in NLCS Game 2 Monday night.
Most popular baseball stories
That would be Albert Pujols, who terrorized the Brewers with a 4-for-5 night that included a two-run homer, three doubles and five RBIs. He also scored three runs, one on a wild pitch, to help the Cardinals tie the series with a 12-3 victory.
With so much talk about the animosity between these teams, it was Pujols who seemed to play Monday's game with malicious intent. Incredibly, the five RBIs matched the total from his last 23 postseason games.
"I don't take this game for granted," Pujols said. "It's going to raise you high and going to bring you down. I've been in this situation before and I'm glad I contributed to the win."
When Pujols made his only out of the night -- grounding to second in the eighth inning -- his bat shattered into pieces. What remained of the usually raucous crowd mustered a sarcastic cheer.
Game 1 was all about Milwaukee's muscle, with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder entertaining the crowd with tape-measure homers. On Monday, Pujols got into the act with a two-run rocket off Shaun Marcum in the first.
Pujols, who had only one RBI in his first six playoff games this season, knew in an instant that it was gone, but he lingered near the batter's box until the ball clanged off the façade of the second deck in leftfield. It was his 14th career postseason homer, moving him ahead of Jim Edmonds for the franchise record.
"I've seen Albert like this before," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I've seen him in years past like this. This is a great baseball player."
Up to that point, Pujols had been relatively quiet this October. At times, he limped because of heel and ankle problems, but Pujols looked fine circling the bases. Not that manager Tony La Russa had been especially worried about his three-time MVP heading into Game 2.
"I think Albert goes in every game and he works his stroke," La Russa said Monday afternoon. "If he's a little bit off, he's good. And if it's right on, he's great. I think he could be the hitting star today and nobody should be surprised." His words turned out to be prophetic.
With two on in the third inning, Pujols drilled another liner that sailed over the head of a leaping Nyjer Morgan in center. That allowed Pujols to cruise into second base with a two-run double. Once he got there, Pujols pointed to the sky, clapped his hands and pointed to the dugout with his arms outstretched. "I guess they got some emotion now," Morgan said. "So be it."
Was Pujols rubbing it in the face of the Brewers with his own celebratory gesture? Maybe. That certainly wouldn't be out of place in this rivalry. But he wasn't finished.
After the Brewers closed to within 5-2 on a two-run homer by Rickie Weeks in the fourth, Roenicke called on Marco Estrada to replace Marcum for the fifth. Apparently, Estrada hadn't been watching the game.
After a leadoff double by Jon Jay, Estrada fell behind Pujols 2-and-0 before throwing him a 91-mph fastball that should not have been anywhere near the plate. But it was, and Pujols smacked an RBI double to rightfield. Not only that, but once Pujols made it to third on a groundout, he scored on a wild pitch.
The knockout blow wouldn't come until a few innings later, when the Cards batted around in the seventh and scored four runs for an 11-2 lead. Pujols doubled and scored then, too.
"Everyone knows how good Albert is and we've seen him do it before," said Jay, who had three hits and was driven in by Pujols each time. "It's great. But we've got to show up the next game and take care of business again."