Pujols tired of just homering, now calling his shots

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Albert Pujols went 4-for-5 with two homers, a double, and six RBIs
yesterday, including a game-breaking grand slam that he apparently
“called” shortly before the at-bat:

After opening the third inning with a fly out, Pujols returned to
the Cardinals clubhouse to review video. There he predicted to
assistant hitting coach Mike Aldrete that his next at-bat would
ricochet off the yet-to-open Royals Hall of Fame behind the visitors
bullpen in left field. “He didn’t say he might hit the Hall of Fame. He
said he would hit the Hall of Fame,” Aldrete recalled.

Pujols returned in the fourth inning against Royals starting pitcher
Gil Meche with the bases loaded and one out in a 4-4 game. Pujols and
Meche reached a full count. By then Meche had shown Pujols every pitch
in his repertoire except a change-up. When Meche finally threw the
pitch, Pujols swatted it some 423 feet off a Hall of Fame window.

Not quite Babe Ruth territory,
but amusing nonetheless. Actually, my favorite part of the whole story
is how Pujols’ teammates reacted when asked about his grand slam after
the game. Here are some examples …

Kyle McClellan: “If it’s 3-2 and he gets a strike, he’s going to hit it. He’s going to drive it. There’s not a question.”

Adam Wainwright: “Face it, I’m playing with the best player of all
time. It’s ridiculous. You almost have to focus on what you’re doing
because you can get caught up in what he’s doing. He’s that good.”

Khalil Greene: “He makes it look easy. I mean, how many guys in the league try to do that?”

Skip Schumaker: “After the second home run we just laughed. It’s
just so easy. It’s a higher level. It’s like he’s here and everybody
else is at Triple-A.”

One of the surest signs of greatness is when the amazing becomes
routine, and judging by those quotes from his teammates Pujols has
definitely reached that stage. Even setting aside the whole “called
shot” aspect yesterday’s grand slam was his third in four at-bats with
the bases loaded this season and tied him with Stan Musial for the most
in Cardinals history with nine.

Pujols is hitting .329 and leads the league in on-base percentage
(.448), slugging percentage (.722), and OPS (1.169) while being on a
60-homer, 160-RBI pace. As manager Tony La Russa put it: “He does it
over and over again. It’s impossible to describe how great he is.”

Jon Niese leaves start with knee pain

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Mets starter Jon Niese left his start Tuesday night against the Cardinals due to left knee pain.

Niese walked two and gave up an RBI single before leaving with a trainer with one out in the bottom of the first inning. He was eventually charged with three earned runs. Robert Gsellman, just up from Las Vegas, took over, making his major league debut under unexpected circumstances.

Niese, who has not pitched well at all since coming over in a trade with the Pirates, is likely to be placed on the disabled list after the game or before tomorrow’s game.

Mark Trumbo’s home run streak ends

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 11:  Mark Trumbo #45 of the Baltimore Orioles hits an RBI single against the Oakland Athletics during the fourth inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 11, 2016 in Oakland, California. The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Oakland Athletics 9-6. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Mark Trumbo still has many chances to hit a home run tonight — it’s only been an inning or so in the Nats-Orioles game — but his weird home run streak is over.

Coming into tonight’s game, Trumbo’s last seven hits had been homers. The all-time record had been 11, set by Mark McGwire back in 2001. The last time Trumbo got a hit that wasn’t a dong was back on August 11. Later in that game, however, he hit a grand slam. After that he went 6 for his next 34, with all those safeties dingers.

But that’s over now. In the first inning tonight he drove in a run with a two-out single. Then he was thrown out trying to stretch it to two. Good job on the RBIs, Mark. Bad job on the base running. Judgment withheld on the homer streak because, really, that’s just kind of weird and cool.