Albert Pujols closed on 700 home runs

scheduled tribe. LOUIS – Anyone who knows baseball knows better than to expect a perfect ending. Baseball is too smart for that.

When Albert Pujols moved back to the St. Louis Cardinals, digging this spring to join Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright for one last Cardinals ride — well, what more could one ask for? After all, decades of daily baseball habits had reduced even the mighty Pujols to something he once was. Just being there, surviving long enough to come home with something left to give, was something.

But those daily baseball habits also include nighttime alignments of baseball stars who, with regularity, have conspired to tug on Pujol in the resulting moments. He has done so much that one September afternoon, the Cardinals’ radio broadcast of what would be Pujol’s final game against the rival Chicago Cubs, Ricky Horton, could not but wonder.

“If you were writing a script for this game for Albert’s final game against the Cubs, I think the script would be killing him for nothing late in the game for a home drive,” Horton said, and Pujols, who was going to the cages to take some swings if the Cubs brought Lefty for the eighth, heard him.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol recalled, “He said he stopped and heard it and was like, ‘Yeah, that would be cool. A few minutes later, after a standing ovation as he emerged into the dugout and another when he stepped into the on-deck circle, Pujols hit that homer,

“That’s why I was smiling all the way when I hit first base to home plate,” Pujols then said. “That was the last thing that was playing on my mind. I couldn’t believe it happened.”

What’s Happening Now For Pujol As He Enters Saturday 700. two homers away In a season he has stood no chance of getting there, it’s as unbelievable as it suits Albert Pujols. In first half of the season, Pujols hit .215 with a .676 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. In the second half, he entered Saturday hitting .328 with 1.109 OPS. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, he would have the second highest second ops among the majors – behind only aaron judge,

Pujols does not have enough at-bats to qualify because until recently, the Cardinals were not using them regularly. They planned to win the National League Central and did so without Vintage Pujols. He hasn’t been that kind of hitter in quite some time, and Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of their lineup had one of the game’s most powerful one-two punches. The Cardinals didn’t need vintage Pujols.

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“When we originally signed him, we were going to see him face more left-handers and that’s it,” said John Mozeliac, the Cardinals’ president of baseball operations. “But the fact that he has some really impressive batting against right-handed batsmen has made all of us reconsider a bit. And of course, fans are coming and want to see them hit. Luckily, I don’t have to lineup. but maybe olek [Marmol] They are under a little more pressure than they were two or three months ago.

35-year-old Marmol is younger than 42-year-old Pujol. he is a first year manager in a city It really doesn’t let anyone get at ease in their baseball business. And he’s spent his first year on the job, building a reputation for being clearly on the straight, blunt range. So when he says he’s building his lineup to win the game, not the heart – to give the Cardinals the best chance of chasing NL East leader for second overall seed In the NL playoffs—and the goodbyes that come with it—he’s confident.

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“The pieces have fallen in a way where Albert is swinging a really good bat,” Marmol said. “When I sit here and do the lineup, my main focus is on how we win tonight, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about what’s going on. But my first The filter is how we can win.”

Through that filter, playing Pujols against a right-hander pitching, as opposed to catching him late facing a good lefty, was not always the right choice this season. But lately, Marmol thinks, it has been.

Although Pujols was not in the lineup against Milwaukee Brewers ace Corbin Burns, the other three times the Cardinals faced him this year, Marmol kept him there this week. He noted that he could have used strikeout-prone Tyler O’Neill against strikeout magician Burns, but Pujols strikes much less frequently.

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But no one needs much explanation at Bush Stadium. Cardinals fans, tight-lipped and meticulous with their baseballs, are absolutely asking for Marmol to choose their spots and not to sit Pujol more often.

“Yes,” agreed Marmol. “I don’t think I’ve seen any Facebook pages for that.”

But while he didn’t plan for it, no one around the Cardinals is surprised by what Pujol is doing – at least, not more than him.

“If you watch his batting practice, you’re like, this guy can still hit the bombs,” said Tommy Edman, as Pujols hit a handful of batting practice fastballs in the third deck Thursday afternoon. This has been true for the Pujols over the years, even as their numbers have slowed.

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they showed that power Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadiumwhere he advanced to the second round with a controversial victory over Kyle Schwarber, although Schwarber was not concerned about scoring disputes as he raised and lowered his arms in praise of Pujol when the veteran advanced.

When young stars like Juan Soto and Julio Rodriguez electrified a Los Angeles night, they did so by showing respect to Pujol, the most prolific Dominican power hitter in history. Soto and Rodriguez were there because of what they bring now, and what they might bring to the game in the future. The commissioner’s office named Pujol to the roster to honor his past.

And up to that point, Pujol’s on-field performances mattered little more than his presence. Hit .215 didn’t stop the teams from showering them with memorabilia and tributes on video boards along the way. He didn’t need to be great again to feel appreciated. They didn’t need to carry the cardinals to keep the treasures.

But in the weeks after that point, even as a pile of No. 5 jerseys that needed to be signed, piled up near his locker, with the names of the eager big leaguers who had asked him to sign. As requested, even as stadiums stand every time he steps into the box, Pujols’ season became less about his legacy, and more about his present.

“When he was named to the All-Star team, I felt a sense of excitement,” Mozeliac said. “If you look at the times where we are today, success on the field is something that just started organically. I think with that comes confidence. Now I think he believes in it.” Is.”

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Pujols’ confidence to reach 700 came slowly and steadily to those at the Cardinals clubhouse who never saw Pujols treat this season as a victory lap. His routines are the stuff of legend, the infrared sauna, his willingness to incorporate coaching into the analysis of his swing, even though he was so confident here in his early years that he called his hit-and-run.

Pujols tells teammates to practice in ways that make them feel confident while playing, and for them, this often means working their way up against high velocity – batting practice instead of turning things around against fastball. To practice at the pace or faster of the game.

“It’s something you’d expect a good major league hitter to produce. Not something you’d think of for someone at 42. I think about that all the time because we’re in the same years were born in,” the Cardinals said, hitting out at coach Jeff Albert. “I’m like seeing this thinking, ‘Man, this is so amazing. It’s impressive.’ ,

Albert and all the others around the Cardinals point to some of Pujols’s same swings when they realize that something special may be on the way. The Alberts (Jeff and Pujols) knew on a sacrificial fly in Atlanta just before the All-Star break that the adjustments they were making to help them stay better through the ball were settling, that their time was back. Came where they needed it.

Edman and Albert both recalled Pujols’ low line drive against Kevin Gossman in Toronto in late July, which flew more than 400 feet to dead center—the kind of right-right swing he wasn’t going to deliver these days .

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There was a two-homer day against the Brewers in Milwaukee, and a game-tying homer against the Pittsburgh Pirates this past weekend. And it was that swing against the Cubs that almost left Pujol laughing as he rounded the bases, as his manager and his teammates looked at the man who has done so much for the game and the franchise realized that It could end up the way he wanted it to after all.

“There was a different feeling to him after that home run,” Marmol recalled. “You could see it was like, ‘Holy cow, that just happened.’ And he just smiled and laughed as he rounded the bases like I can’t believe that just happened.”

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