John Lackey plans to pitch in 2018

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When John Lackey exited after a 1-2-3 fifth inning in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers last month, many assumed that marked his final appearance in the major leagues. The now 39-year-old was expected to retire.

Lackey is not retiring and intends to pitch in 2018, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. He’s a free agent, so he will be looking for major league deals heading into spring training.

Lackey finished the 2017 regular season with a 4.59 ERA and a 149/53 K/BB ratio in 170 2/3 innings across 30 starts and one relief appearance with the Cubs. He led the National League, allowing 36 home runs. Pitching, however, is always in demand so Lackey should still draw some interest despite his age and declining numbers.

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).