The State of the Races

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AL EAST

The spread: The Yankees beat Seattle, Boston is idle. It’s a four game lead for New York.  The Rays, meanwhile, won again, so they are only three back in the wild card.

The skinny: The Red Sox now have Joey Gathright. So they totally got this, right?

AL CENTRAL

The spread: The Tigers won their tenth in a row, trouncing Chicago. The lead is 11.5

The skinny: I think Detroit’s goal should be to have a larger lead over the second place team in the division than the second place team has over the last place team. Right now Chicago and Cleveland are 14 games ahead of the Twins.  I think the Tigers can do it.

AL WEST

The spread: The Angels fall to Oakland, Texas was idle. The lead is now three.

The skinny: I was going to say something pithy about how you gotta win the games against the Oaklands of the world if you’re going to win the division, but I think the Angels know that already.

NL EAST

The spread: The Phillies and Braves both lose. But since St. Louis did too, Atlanta’s lead in the wild card remains at 4.5 games.

The skinny: The Astros went to town on Roy Oswalt. I’ve asked it before, but really, is he going to be the Phillies’ fourth starter in the playoffs?  Assuming they really need one in a critical game anyway?

NL CENTRAL

The spread: The Brewers were idle an the Cards lost, so Milwaukee’s lead is six and a half games. St. Louis remains four and a half back of the Braves for the wild card.

The skinny: Braves panic aside, it’s not enough for the Cardinals to keep pace with them. On nights Atlanta loses, the Cards have to win. The math is the math and there aren’t a lot of games left.

NL WEST

The spread: The Diamondbacks and Giants both win. The lead remains at eight and a half games.

The skinny: I saw someone in the comments make a case for Charlie Manuel as manager of the year. Kirk Gibson and his inevitable unanimous or near-unanimous vote total in that category chuckle at you in amusement.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.