ST. LOUIS (AP) -- With nearly a month to go in the regular season, Albert Pujols had enough home runs to win his first title. Just enough, as it turned out.
It's been 79 at-bats, the longest drought of his storied career, since the St. Louis Cardinals' star went deep for Nos. 46 and 47 at Milwaukee on Sept. 9. Pujols doesn't want to hear about it, and insists he's 100 percent heading into the playoffs.
"I feel good," Pujols said after going a quiet 1-for-5 in Sunday's season finale. "I feel really good."
The numbers don't look all that good, especially for a player who's perhaps the front-runner for his third National League MVP award. Pujols led the majors in slugging percentage for the third straight season, finished second to Hanley Ramirez in the batting race with a .327 average and was third with 135 RBIs.
He has 24 hits since the two-homer game, only eight of them doubles, and 11 RBIs in 21 games.
Pujols suggested the drought might be just a statistical anomaly, and that when St. Louis opens the postseason in Los Angeles on Wednesday he might just go on a binge. He also revealed a touch of the flu bug that he played through much of the final week.
"Maybe this postseason I can go out there and hit 10 homers and everybody will be like 'Wow!" Pujols said. "That's part of the game that (the media) needs to understand and not try to figure out why things happen.
"I can't figure out why things happen, only God knows why things happen."
Manager Tony La Russa said cooler fall temperatures are conspiring against Pujols. Temperatures were in the low 60s and high 50s for the three-game series with the Brewers that closed the regular season.
"This is probably the worst time to hit home runs," La Russa said. "The air is thicker, it's cooler, the balls don't carry unless you're playing in some parks where it doesn't matter."
Then again, Milwaukee's Prince Fielder homered twice on Sunday in St. Louis.
Pujols, the franchise's first home run king since Mark McGwire hit 65 in 1999, won't use the weather as an excuse. He said he could have hit 50 homers with no problem if he elected to swing for the fences and forget about finishing with a high average, something he was unwilling to do.
"Believe me, if I wanted to go out there and hit home runs, I would probably drop about 25 points over the last three weeks," Pujols said. "That wasn't my goal. My goal was to try to drive the ball into the gaps and try to finish strong."
La Russa has seen enough Pujols heroics over the years that he's not worried about the player who carried the franchise for the first half of the season and persuaded the front office to pull the trigger on deals for Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Julio Lugo.
"I tell you guys straight out, it doesn't matter who's in front of me or behind me," Pujols said. "Obviously, I hit a little bit of a bump the last couple weeks but if you look at the whole year I was pretty consistent.
"Now it's time to be fresh and get ready for the postseason."
The matchup against the Dodgers features a potential superstar showdown of Pujols vs. Manny Ramirez. La Russa said his star doesn't need that type of artificial stimulus.
"You look for that vibe every game he plays," the manager said. "He's the same all the time. He's so tough-minded, consistent. All the time. Everywhere."
Pujols is making his sixth playoff appearance in nine seasons. The Cardinals have won the division series all five previous times and made it to the World Series twice, winning it all in 2006.
"But I'm still hungry," Pujols said. "I've got 10 fingers. There's one that's busy and I need nine more."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)