ARLINGTON, Texas (Reuters) - Albert Pujols, the sleeping giant of the St. Louis Cardinals, awoke with awesome force Saturday, producing the greatest hitting performance in a World Series.
Pujols, who had been held to an 0-for-6 batting line in the first two games of the Fall Classic in St. Louis, exploded for three home runs and six runs batted in with a 5-for-6 night that silenced a sell-out crowd at Rangers Ballpark and gave St. Louis a 2-1 lead in the series with a 16-7 victory.
The three home runs by the three-time National League Most Valuable Player matched New York Yankees sluggers Babe Ruth, who accomplished the feat twice, in 1926 and 1928, and Reggie Jackson in 1977 for long-ball exploits.
The Cardinals first baseman also tied Paul Molitor for most hits in a series game (five in 1982), tied the record for most RBIs (six, by Bobby Richardson in 1960 and Hideki Matsui in 2009), and set a new standard for most total bases (14).
"I felt that I swung the bat pretty good the last couple of games," Pujols said after his amazing barrage. "That's the way baseball goes.
"You just have to make sure you don't get frustrated and just make sure that you bounce back the next day."
Pujols tried to deflect questions about his achievement.
"It's not about me. This is about our ballclub. I just thank God that I was able to contribute tonight and help our ballclub to win," the 31-year-old slugger said.
"It takes 25 guys on the roster...and it's about representing the Cardinals and to be able to contribute. I'm just blessed that I was able to do that."
Others were in awe of Pujols.
"That's the greatest night in World Series history," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.
Texas manager Ron Washington said Pujols was so dangerous, he should be "outlawed."
"He's a super player and he certainly came to play tonight," Washington said.
La Russa said some of his players sensed that Pujols was on his way to something special.
"There was a couple times in that dugout about the middle of the game somebody kept saying, 'He's having a day he'll never forget,' and that's kind of what he did," the manager said.
"It's the latest example of how great he is."
After being robbed of a hit on a smash at third baseman Adrian Beltre in the first inning, Pujols singled in the fourth, singled in the fifth, slugged a three-run homer in the sixth that turned an 8-6 lead into an 11-6 bulge, belted a two-run blast in the seventh and a solo shot in the ninth.
Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said Pujols was so potent, you had to pitch around him and hope he swung at bad pitches.
"When you face one of the best hitters in baseball you have to make him chase," said Andrus. "Everybody knows how good he is. If he doesn't chase, give him first base."
Rangers starting pitcher Matt Harrison said: "You just have to make your pitches to him. We made some mistakes tonight and he made us pay by hitting them out of the ballpark."
St. Louis reliever Lance Lynn, who registered the win, empathized with the plight of the Texas pitchers.
"He was locked in tonight," Lynn said. "That's great for us. You never want to be the pitcher to face him when he's locked in.
"It was fun to watch him do what he did tonight and just to be a team mate of his when he did something like that. That's something I'm going to be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I actually witnessed that in person."
(Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Steve Ginsburg)