Albert Pujols has tried to downplay the significance of the Angels' upcoming series, but when one of the most prolific sluggers of the past decade faces his former team for the first time, it's sure to secure the spotlight.
For the first time since he clutched the World Series trophy at Busch Stadium in October 2011, Pujols will share the field with the St. Louis Cardinals when they visit Angel Stadium for a three-game set beginning Tuesday.
"I'll probably feel the same way I feel every time I take the field," Pujols said. "It's another series. It's going to be a little different because I played with half of those guys for almost 11 years. I'm going to approach my game the same way I do every day and every series and do the best I can to help this ballclub to win."
Pujols relocated to Southern California after signing a 10-year contract with the Angels following the Cardinals' Fall Classic triumph over the Rangers. The new deal signaled the end to the slugger's 11-year reign in St. Louis, where Pujols won two World Series rings, three National League Most Valuable Player Awards and earned nine All-Star Game nods.
Greener pastures haven't yet proven to be as plentiful, as the Angels missed the postseason last year and are below the .500 mark this season. The Cardinals, meanwhile, reached the 2012 NL Championship Series and sit at 49-32 at the halfway mark this year. St. Louis leads the NL in runs per game and batting average.
The Angels do, however, enter the series on a six-game winning streak.
"I think enough time has passed," said St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny. "It was odd the first few times we watched him on TV. The red color helps a little, too. It makes it a little more normal. I think it will be a little awkward seeing him out there, but I think we're all more concerned about the caliber of team we're about to play."
Pujols' former teammates shared a slew of expectations for their impending encounters with the 33-year-old.
Said catcher Yadier Molina: "I would think it's going to be awkward. But it's going to be nice to see him. I learned a lot of things from Pujols. He taught me how to go about the game the right way and I respect him as a friend, as a person, as a teammate. It's going to be good to see him."
Said first baseman Allen Craig: "I think it'll be weird initially. But he's the same old Albert."
Said third baseman David Freese: "I think if Anaheim was coming to St. Louis that he would get a roaring ovation. People understand what Albert brought to the city, and that was so many excellent years of baseball and world championships. St. Louis is a very demanding city, and he stepped up to the plate."
Pujols totes a .249 average with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs. Only once -- his last season, in which he hit .299 -- during his tenure in St. Louis did Pujols bat lower than .312. He finished in the top three in balloting for NL MVP eight times.
Pujols enters the series with only four hits in his last 34 at-bats.
Cardinals: Lynn seeking win No. 11
The Cardinals are 12-4 this season when Lance Lynn toes the rubber. Lynn is 10-2 with a 3.52 ERA, though he has scuffled a bit of late, posting a 5.84 ERA over his last four outings. Lynn has never pitched against the Angels.
• The Cardinals expect Matt Adams to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday. He was out of the lineup on Sunday with food poisoning after logging his first career multihomer game a day earlier. He pinch-hit in the ninth inning and struck out in the loss to the A's.
Angels: Weaver aiming for more Interleague success
Half of Jered Weaver's starts this season have come against an NL opponent. Weaver boasts a 13-4 record and 2.61 ERA in 24 career outings against the NL. This season, Weaver has compiled a 1-4 mark and 4.15 ERA in eight starts.
• This series wraps up the Cardinals' three-series Interleague trip. St. Louis won't face another American League team until September.
• The Angels and Cardinals last met in May 2010, when St. Louis took two of three at Busch Stadium.