ST. LOUIS (AP) – Everyone knows the key to the St. Louis Cardinals’ offense is Albert Pujols.

Well, they won their first World Series in 24 years pretty much without him. The city’s first championship since the days of Whitey Ball was indeed a team effort. Pujols, the NL MVP last season, is at worst a co-favorite to win it again after a monster season with 49 home runs and 137 RBIs. He batted .200 with one homer, an opposite-field shot in Game 1, and two RBIs in the World Series, making a bigger contribution with his defense at first base.

Even so, the 83-win Cardinals took out the 95-win Tigers in five games with a 4-2 victory Friday night.

Every team, not just the Tigers, talks about pitching carefully to Pujols, and that’s likely a contributing factor to his low production. But Pujols admitted before Game 5 that mostly it was his fault because at times he tried to do too much.

The flashbulbs always pop when Pujols is at the plate, glaring at the pitcher and prepared to uncoil. He failed to deliver in Game 5 with a single, walk, strikeout and pop-up.

His biggest play came at the start of the seventh when he made a sprawling stop of Placido Polanco’s hard-hit grounder and while flat on his back flipped the ball to pitcher Jeff Weaver in time to keep the Tigers’ postseason star – and his best friend – hitless in the Series.

Pujols who batted .288 overall in the postseason with three homers and six RBIs after leading the major leagues with 25 game-winning RBIs.

in the regular season, was along for the ride.

David Eckstein, 0-for-9 the first two games, finished with six hits and four RBIs in the last two to earn the MVP award. Yadier Molina, a .216 hitter in the regular season, had three hits in the clincher and was 7-for-16 in the World Series. Scott Rolen, benched in Game 2 of the NLCS because of a slump combined with a sore shoulder, hit safely in the last 10 games after being reinstated. Jim Edmonds, plagued by post-concussion syndrome and a sore left foot in the last month and a half of the regular season, led the team with 10 RBIs in the postseason.

The pitching also outshone Pujols.

Game 5 hero Jeff Weaver began his career in Detroit, had it derailed in Anaheim and celebrated its rebirth while allowing one earned run in eight innings in his longest postseason outing. At the end, the former retread stood alongside Chris Carpenter, NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan and even rookie Anthony Reyes, who threw eight shutout innings in Game 1, as pitchers the team could count on in October.

AP-ES-10-27-06 2334EDT

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