Albert Pujols has long had a spot secured in the pantheon of all-time great baseball players, but on Friday he showed he still has plenty left in the tank. Pujols smashed two home runs to become the fourth member of the 700-homer club, keying the Cardinals’ 11-0 rout of the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
Before the game, Pujols and fellow Cardinals retiree Yadier Molina were presented golf clubs from the Dodgers in a pregame ceremony. Pujols addressed the crowd over the public address system.
“You guys brought me the joy,” Pujols said of his time with the Dodgers in 2021. “As a boy at five years old when I started playing baseball came back to me last year in that five and a half months I spent with a great organization.”
That joy has continued and then some this season in his farewell tour with the Cardinals, for whom he played his first 11 seasons. He’s hitting .265/.338/.530 this year, with a 143 wRC+ and 21 home runs at age 42, in his 22nd and final season.
Andrew Heaney, the Dodgers’ most homer-prone starting pitcher, started this game, and struck out Pujols in the first inning. But in the third inning, after a one-out walk to Tommy Edman, Pujols hit a ball well up the pavilion in left field for home run No. 699.
Edman singled with two outs in the fourth ended Heaney’s night at 86 pitches to get only 11 outs. Dave Roberts wasn’t about to let Pujols face the left-handed Heaney again. So instead he brought in the right-handed Phil Bickford, the team’s most homer-prone reliever.
On a 1-1 slider, Pujols made history.
Pujols joins select company with his 700 only home runs, joining Barry Bonds (762 home runs), Henry Aaron (755), and Babe Ruth (714). Pujols, from the Dominican Republic, is the first member of the 700 club born outside the United States. Pujols and Aaron are the only players in MLB history with both 700 home runs and 3,000 hits.
It was a magical moment for baseball, one completed by Pujols making a beeline after touching home to give a high-five through netting to Adrían Beltré, who was sitting in the first row.
But in the game, Pujols’ second homer was a three-run shot that gave St. Louis a 5-0 lead. Three more runs off Bickford in the fifth, including a home run by Lars Nootbaar blew the game open. Bickford has allowed 12 home runs in 61 innings, tied for eighth-most allowed in relief by a Dodgers pitcher in one season.
One loss doesn’t affect much in terms of the Dodgers’ playoff standing, nor their chances of home field advantage through the NLCS and World Series. But Friday night did do a good job of highlighting that the Dodgers still have a lot to sort out at the bottom third or so of any potential postseason roster.
Heaney has allowed 13 home runs in 64⅔ innings this season. He also has a 3.06 ERA and a 35-percent strikeout rate, but over his last seven starts the ERA is 4.82 with 11 home runs. Couple that with Dustin May’s shakiness and Tony Gonsolin’s forearm strain, and the Dodgers’ options for a fourth starter in October aren’t all that attractive at the moment.
Craig Kimbrel, demoted from the closer role earlier Friday, saw his first appearance come in the lowest of leverage, down eight runs in the sixth. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
Hanser Alberto, who started at second base Friday, made his ninth pitching appearance of the season, and pitched the final two innings. He allowed a home run to rookie Alec Burleson, who pinch-hit for Pujols in the eighth.
Five home runs hit by the Cardinals were one shy of the Dodgers’ record for most given up at Dodger Stadium. The Reds hit six home runs on August 2, 2001, and Arizona hit six (four by JD Martinez) on September 4, 2017.
Home runs: Albert Pujols 2 (21), Lars Nootbaar (14), Juan Yepez (12), Alec Burleson (1)
WP — José Quintana (6-6): 6⅔ IP, 5 hits, 6 strikeouts
LP — Andrew Heaney (3-3): 3⅔ IP, 4 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Clayton Kershaw is on the mound on Saturday night (6:10 p.m., SportsNet LA), with the first of either two or three regular season starts remaining. Kershaw is 25th all-time with 2,787 strikeouts, and the next slot ahead of him is Cy Young with 2,803. Fellow southpaw Jordan Montgomery, with a 2.35 ERA in nine starts since getting acquired from the Yankees at the trade deadline, starts for St. Louis.