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.

The 2019 Hall of Fame Class will be announced this evening

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This year’s Hall of Fame ballot was released just over two months ago. This evening at 6:15 PM Eastern, all of the arguing stops. Well, actually, it doesn’t stop, because it never stops. Not really. It just transforms into something more pointless, because as of then, the 2019 Hall of Fame class will be officially announced live on MLB Network.

The entire ballot can be found here. Two weeks ago I went through it, candidate-by-candidate, in order to determine who I would vote for if, in fact, I had a vote. For what it’s worth, I ended up with Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Manny Ramirez. and Scott Rolen.

No, not all of those guys will be elected. I strongly suspect we’ll get three, with an outside chance at a fourth. Based on the best Hall of Fame voting tracker out there, Mariano Rivera is a lock. So too, it seems, is Roy Halladay. Edgar Martinez — on the ballot for is tenth and final time — likewise seems to have the support to finally make it. He was 20 votes short last year and, so far, he has picked up more than 20 new votes among voters who have revealed their ballots. Assuming that previous Martinez voters who have not released their ballots do not backtrack — a safe assumption — Edgar should, at long last, finally make it into Cooperstown.

The last guy who, at present, is trending above the required 75% is Mike Mussina who, at present, is included on 81% of public ballots. There is a tendency for the non-public voters to be stingier with their support, however, so there’s a pretty decent chance that Mussina will fall just under the threshold and will find himself back on the ballot next year. A jump from last year’s 63.5% support to something in the 70s, however, would bode very well for his 2020 chances. If he somehow makes it this year’s class will rival last year’s four-person BBWAA-elected class as one of the better ones in living memory.

Who will join Harold Baines and Lee Smith on the stage in Cooperstown in July? We find out this evening, just after 6 PM.