Albert Pujols is still ALBERT PUJOLS

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Albert Pujols’ season totals are still well below his usual standards because of his bad start, but he’s somewhat quietly been his usual dominant self and then some for the past two months.

Last night Pujols went 4-for-4 against the Brewers, smacking his 28th homer to move into a tie for the NL lead with teammate Lance Berkman. And thanks in large part to batting in front of Berkman’s (and Matt Holliday’s) power Pujols also ranks second among NL hitters with 78 runs scored while being among the top 10 in slugging percentage, total bases, extra-base hits, and RBIs.

That’s one helluva down year.

In his last 50 games Pujols is hitting .312 with 20 homers, 16 doubles, and a 1.059 OPS. To put that in some context, coming into this season he was a career .331 hitter with a 1.050 OPS. In other words, he’s been his usual self since around May 30, with a fractured wrist in mid-June briefly interrupting things, but the slow start has kept that from being obvious to everyone.

Report: The White Sox and Diamondbacks are in on Manny Machado

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Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the White Sox and Diamondbacks have emerged as two of the strongest contenders for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will deal their superstar infielder this winter, but nothing appears imminent just yet. While both the White Sox and D-backs have reportedly made serious offers, Orioles owner Peter Angelos is wary of any non-contending team that might be incentivized to flip Machado to the rival Yankees next season.

The White Sox, for their part, have assured the Orioles that they view Machado more as a solid one-year rental than the new face of their franchise, with no immediate plans to deal him elsewhere. Given their current rebuilding status and the unlikelihood that they would contend in 2018, it makes their offer a bit of a head-scratcher — and, as USA Today Sports’ Bob Nightengale points out, they’ve been reluctant to put any top-5 prospects on the table in preliminary negotiations.

The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are far better positioned to enter the postseason in 2018, though that doesn’t automatically make them the perfect landing spot for Machado. They already have Jake Lamb stationed at third base, and while it’s not inconceivable that they could jettison the Ketel Marte/Chris Owings/Nick Ahmed shortstop platoon for someone of Machado’s talent, his $17 million salary appears to be more than the D-backs are currently capable of absorbing.

The White Sox and D-backs may have exhibited the most interest in Machado so far, but they’re hardly the only contenders here. MASN Sports’ Roch Kubatko maintains that the Cardinals and Yankees remain in discussions for the 25-year-old, with Cardinals’ RHP Jordan Hicks and catcher Carson Kelly drawing interest, as well as Yankees’ top prospect Gleyber Torres. Any deal involving the Yankees still feels like a long shot, however; as Craig mentioned on Wednesday, it makes sense that the club wouldn’t want to see their star player hanging around their division rivals in 2018, and the Yankees should be well prepared to make a run at him in free agency next winter.