Albert Pujols swiftly waking, hits walkoff homer to beat Cubs

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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.

Javier Baez, D.J. LeMahieu have disagreement about sign-stealing

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Fellow second basemen Javier Baez of the Cubs and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies got into a disagreement in the top of the third inning of Sunday’s game at Coors Field over sign-stealing.

LeMahieu reached on a fielder’s choice ground out, then advanced to second base on Charlie Blackmon‘s single. While Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were batting, Baez was concerned that LeMahieu was relaying the Cubs’ signs to his teammates. Baez decided to stand in front of LeMahieu to block any information he might have been giving to Arenado and Story. LeMahieu got irritated and the two jawed at each other for a bit. Umpires Vic Carapazza and Greg Gibson had to intervene to tell Baez to knock it off.

There has always been a back-and-forth with alleged sign-stealing. As long as teams aren’t using technology to steal signs, it’s fair game for players to relay information to their teammates about the opposing team’s signs. Last year, MLB determined the Red Sox went against the rules and used technology — an Apple watch in this case — to steal signs from the Yankees. Other teams in the past have been accused of using binoculars from the bullpen to steal signs. In this particular case with Baez and LeMahieu, there was no foul play going on, just Baez trying to make the Rockies cede what he perceived to be their slight competitive advantage.

The Cubs went on to beat the Rockies 9-7 on Sunday.