Albert Pujols is back to being ALBERT PUJOLS again

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His season totals are still way below his usual standards, but Albert Pujols is back to being one of the best hitters in baseball and has been for more than a month now.

Pujols had a .194 batting average and zero homers through 27 games. Then he homered against the Blue Jays on May 6 and since then he’s hit .308 with nine homers, eight doubles, 31 RBIs, nearly as many walks (14) as strikeouts (15), and a .942 OPS in 33 games.

Pujols hit .328 with a 1.037 OPS in 11 seasons for the Cardinals, so even his post-May 6 production hasn’t quite been at that level, but switching from the NL to the AL and offense being down across baseball makes the gap seem wider than it probably is.

Last year, for instance, Pujols hit .299 with a .906 OPS and those were both career-worst marks. Because of his terrible first six weeks he’ll have an extremely hard time reaching even those season totals, but with the Angels winning 14 of their last 18 games and Pujols being his usual self again we’ve probably seen the last of those “is Albert Pujols washed up?” stories.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.