Pujols strikes again, second straight walkoff sweeps Cubs

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Albert Pujols is most certainly back.

Not to be outdone by his own performance in Saturday afternoon’s 12th-inning victory over the rival Cubs, the Cardinals first baseman slugged a second straight walkoff home run on Sunday in a thrilling 3-2 extra-innings win for St. Louis.

The Cards swept the three-game series.

Albert’s 10th-inning blast sailed high into the left-center field bleachers. He admired the shot for several seconds at home plate before trotting around the bases slowly and dancing down the third base line into a jumping huddle of Cardinals players. It’s quite clear: he’s feelin’ it.

That’s now four homers in three games for Pujols, and two of the game-ending variety.

Pujols ended the month of May with a .267/.336/.419 batting line. Just five games into June, he’s now hitting .278/.353/.473. His OPS has jumped from .745 to .826 in less than a week.

Cubs manager Mike Quade told reporters on Sunday morning that he didn’t sleep Saturday night after making the decision to pitch to Pujols in the 12th inning. Somebody may want to pass him some Ambien for the plane ride to Cincinnati, because he made an almost identical decision on Sunday afternoon in the 10th.

The Cardinals are now 11 games above .500 and alone atop the National League Central standings.

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.