Whether caused by a hamstring injury, distractions related to his impending free agency, or simply the aging process, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols had a disappointing first two months.
He’s on a mission to make June, July, August, September and October far more fruitful.
Pujols finished 3-for-4 with four RBI in the Cardinals’ extra-innings defeat of the rival Cubs on Saturday afternoon in a muggy St. Louis. He ripped a two-run shot to right-center field in the fourth inning, an RBI double in the sixth inning and then played the hero in the 12th inning with his first walkoff home run of the season. It was the ninth game-ending homer of his career.
Pujols is now 10-for-23 with four home runs, nine RBI and nine runs scored since the Cardinals arrived home from a western road trip on Monday. His OPS rose from .761 to .807 on Saturday alone and has jumped over 70 points in the past 10 days. The slugger is still miles from his historically exceptional career offensive pace, but Pujols is capable of going on a tear that can last until autumn and is certainly showing signs of life.
The Cardinals are 10 games above .500 and sit alone atop the National League Central standings.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen had trouble coming up with an Anthony Rizzo line drive in the top of the third inning. The ball seemed to curve at the last minute, clanking off of McCutchen’s glove, setting up first and third with two outs for the Cubs. McCutchen was sacked with an error. Ben Zobrist then cranked out a three-run home run off of starter Juan Nicasio to put the Cubs up 3-0.
Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, McCutchen said after the game, “Whoever scored that an error should be fired. That’s unbelievable. I did everything I could to catch it.”
Here’s the video. Rule 9.12(a) in baseball’s official rules states:
(a) The official scorer shall charge an error against any fielder:
(1) whose misplay (fumble, muff or wild throw) prolongs the time at bat of a batter, prolongs the presence on the bases of a runner or permits a runner to advance one or more bases
Pretty cut and dried stuff here. It was an error.
Rangers 3B/OF Joey Gallo will miss three to four weeks with a Grade 1 groin strain, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Gallo, 22, has spent the season at Triple-A Round Rock, where he’s hit a productive .254/.400/.642 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 85 plate appearances. Gallo was at times impressive in 123 plate appearances with the Rangers last year, but the club felt he needed some more work on his plate discipline, as he struck out 57 times in 123 PA at the big league level in 2015. At Triple-A this year, Gallo has drawn 17 walks and struck out 21 times.
Assuming he heals as expected from the injury, Gallo should join the Rangers at some point during the summer.
Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy flirted with the cycle in Wednesday afternoon’s 13-2 drubbing of the Royals, as he went 4-for-5 with a pair of singles, a two-run double, and a solo home run. That brings his triple-slash line on the season up to .398/.449/.663. Comparatively, teammate Bryce Harper — the defending NL MVP and arguably the best player in baseball — is currently hitting .266/.372/.649.
Murphy has always been an above-average hitter, but this level of hitting is something else. Of course, he flashed it in the post-season last year when he homered in six consecutive games, helping the Mets advance past the Dodgers in the NLDS and sweep the Cubs in the NLCS.
The Nats signed Murphy to a three-year, $37.5 million contract in January. If Neil Walker, acquired from the Pirates to replace Murphy, wasn’t hitting so well, the Mets would probably be jealous. Walker is hitting .296/.330/.582 with nine home runs and 19 RBI.
It’s always fun when this happens. Cubs starter Jon Lester snagged a grounder hit back up the middle by Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli in the bottom of the second inning. The only problem was that the ball got stuck in the webbing of his glove. Rather than fight to pry the ball out, Lester just lobbed his glove over to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to get the first out of the inning.
Lester has had issues throwing baseballs to first base, so maybe it was a good thing the ball got stuck in his glove.
Lester did this last year, too, by the way.