Just as Albert Pujols was starting to hit his stride, he got hurt.

The Cardinals' first baseman left yesterday's game against the Astros when he injured his left hamstring running the bases in the sixth inning.

Manager Tony La Russa pretty much ruled the NL batting champion out of the four-game series that starts today in Chicago.

"I'd be very surprised if he's ready to go in the next couple of days maybe or even the whole series," La Russa said. "If you told me right now he'd play next weekend, I'd take that immediately."

George Paletta, the team physician, said Pujols will have an MRI exam today.

Pujols has had at least four hits in three of his last nine games, batting .559 during that stretch (19 for 34) with five homers and 11 RBI. Overall he is tied for the major league lead with 17 homers and was batting .325 with 40 RBI after a slow start.

* PERCIVAL OUT: Angels closer Troy Percival was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of inflammation in his right elbow. Percival has blown four saves in his last eight appearances -- matching his total last year -- in 17 chances.

* COLLISION: Royals RHP Jason Grimsley and 1B Ken Harvey collided in the sixth inning and were taken to a hospital; X-rays on both were negative.

Grimsley bruised his left forearm and right jaw and Harvey has a bruised right forearm. Both are day-to-day.

-- From News Services