MLB postseason: The ten best playoff MVPs

Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cardinals star Albert Pujols in 2004. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Cardinals star Albert Pujols in 2004. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

10. Albert Pujols, 0.975, 2004 NLCS

Pujols’ consistent play saved a bitterly fought seven-game NLCS between his NL Central champion Cardinals and the division runner-up Houston Astros.

St. Louis entered MLB postseason play as a strong favorite to represent the National League in the World Series based largely on their dominant, 105-win regular season. Pujols batted .331 that season.

The one team that had given the Cardinals problems all season was Houston, which won 10 of the teams’ 18 regular season meetings. So when the Astros eliminated the Atlanta Braves in a five-game division series, the NLCS set up as a struggle. Pujols turned out to be the difference maker.

In the first game, his first inning home run erased a 2-0 Astros lead. He later singled and walked as St. Louis won 10-7.

In Game 2, Pujols’ eighth inning home run broke open a 4-4 tie and sent St. Louis on its way to a 6-4 victory.

But Houston rallied to take the next three games and send St. Louis to the brink of elimination in Game 6. That brink loomed closer when Lance Berkman homered in the top of the first. But in the home half of that same inning, Pujols blasted a two-run home run of his own to give St. Louis a lead. The contest stood 4-4 into extra innings when Pujols opened the bottom of the 10th by working a base on balls from Dan Miceli. Two batters later, Jim Edmonds homered, Pujols scoring ahead of him with the run that sent the series to a seventh game.

Houston carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning of that decisive game. But with two out and a runner at second, Pujols touched Roger Clemens for a game-tying two base hit. He scored the go-ahead run with the next hitter, Scott Rolen, homered. St. Louis won 5-2.