Piniella has plan to deal with Pujols

Piniella will stand in Pujols' way

CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella is not going to let Albert Pujols beat the Cubs if he can prevent it.

Pujols has hit four home runs in the Cardinals' first 11 games and drove in seven runs last Saturday. In the first inning Thursday against the Cubs, the Cardinals had a runner at third and Pujols was intentionally walked. Sean Marshall got him to pop up with one out and nobody on in the third. In the fifth, St. Louis had a runner at second and none out, and Marshall got Pujols to ground out.

With a runner at second and one out in the seventh, Pujols was intentionally walked and scored on Chris Duncan's single. Pujols also singled to lead off the ninth.

He was 1-for-3, two walks, no RBIs. No major damage. That's exactly how Piniella wants it for the rest of this four-game series -- and the rest of the year.

Thursday was the first time Pujols was intentionally walked twice in a game this season. Teams did so five times last year.

"You put him on base with men in scoring position, and you try to have a guy like Albert not beat you," Piniella said. "I think that's the best approach. He's a force. You're very careful."

On Friday, Pujols will square off against the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano, who will be making his third start of the season. Zambrano is 9-6 in his career against the Cardinals, including a 1-2 record last season. Pujols is 14-for-54 against Big Z, including five home runs and two doubles. Zambrano also has struck out Pujols 11 times. Last year, Pujols was 3-for-7 against Zambrano with one home run.

"There are hitters you respect, and hitters who you say, 'That guy shouldn't beat you,'" Piniella said. "We won't allow this particular guy to beat you, and Albert falls into that category. He's a player. [What we do] depends on availability of room to put him on and also how the people are hitting behind him."

Pujols has the most at-bats against Zambrano among Cubs pitchers. The Cardinals' slugger has a career .267 (8-for-30) average against Saturday's starter, Ryan Dempster, and a .321 (9-for-28) average against Sunday's starter, Ted Lilly.

The Cardinals came into this series leading the National League Central, which the Cubs have won the last two years.

"St. Louis has a good ballclub," Piniella said. "They're leading the league in runs scored. Tony [La Russa] always does a nice job with the team. It'll be a nice challenge for us in the division."

Pitching matchup
CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 3.00 ERA)
This will be Zambrano's first start at home this season. The right-hander was 7-2 at Wrigley last year. In his last start Saturday night at Miller Park, Zambrano gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings. He did strike out seven but also threw 118 pitches. Prince Fielder connected on one of those for his first homer. The runs were the first off Zambrano at Miller Park in 20 innings. He was 1-2 with a 12.75 ERA against the Cardinals last year.

STL: RHP P.J. Walters (0-0, -.-- ERA)
Walters impressed the Major League staff in Spring Training, leapfrogging to the top of the sixth-starter chart. He throws strikes and keeps the ball on the ground, two traits that endear any young pitcher to La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. Still, Walters struggled somewhat last year in his first exposure to Triple-A, and it will be intriguing to see how he handles big league hitters in his first shot.

Tidbits
Alfonso Soriano has hit in five straight games and eight of the Cubs' first nine. ... Marshall did not get a decision in his first start Thursday. "He basically did a decent job of pitching," Piniella said. "I thought he had some trouble with their left-hand hitters because he threw too many pitches to them. He'll get better, he'll get sharper the next time out there." ... When Aaron Heilman gave up Khalil Greene's homer, it ended 4 2/3 scoreless innings by the right-hander. ... Jose Ascanio threw four scoreless innings for Triple-A Iowa in a 7-4 loss to Albuquerque on Wednesday. Jake Fox hit his fourth home run and hit .538 in the first seven games. ... James Russell gave up five runs on six hits over four innings in Double-A Tennessee's 6-2 loss to Birmingham. ... Marcos Mateo gave up one hit over three innings and struck out five in Class A Daytona's 3-1 loss to Dunedin. ... Aaron Shafer gave up one earned run on six hits over seven innings and struck out seven in Class A Peoria's 3-2 win over Dayton. ... The Cardinals have tweaked their rotation, and Walters will make his Major League debut on Friday.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• WGN

On radio
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Up next
• Saturday: Cubs (Ryan Dempster, 1-0, 4.50) vs. Cardinals (Kyle Lohse, 2-0, 1.13), 2:40 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Cubs (Ted Lilly, 2-0, 3.86) vs. Cardinals (Todd Wellemeyer, 1-1, 4.50), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Off-day

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.