Albert Pujols is hitting like ALBERT PUJOLS again

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At age 35 and after three underwhelming Angels seasons Albert Pujols seemed to have settled into being a good but not great player, but suddenly he’s hitting like the pre-free agency Cardinals version–also known as ALBERT PUJOLS–again.

Pujols homered twice Monday night against the Astros, giving him 15 homers in his last 24 games and a league-leading 23 homers on the season.

His current .917 OPS is Pujols’ highest since 2010, when he finished runner-up in the MVP voting to Joey Votto of the Reds. And once you adjust for offensive levels being down across baseball, his OPS+ of 156 is well above his mark of 128 for the Angels from 2012-2014 and a shade below his mark of 170 for the Cardinals from 2001-2011.

Pujols’ great overall production in St. Louis involved huge batting averages, outstanding strike-zone control, and big-time power. Right now it’s mostly just the big-time power, because he’s hitting .275 and has just 21 walks in 283 plate appearances for a walk rate that’s nearly half of what is was during his peak. However, during his last 35 games Pujols has hit .328 with 17 homers, more walks than strikeouts, and a 1.168 OPS.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.