Andrew McCutchen returns to Pittsburgh

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The San Francisco Giants head to PNC Park to face the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend. It’ll be the first time Andrew McCutchen returns to Pittsburgh as a visitor. You have to figure he’ll get a pretty warm reception when he comes to the plate for the first time.

McCutchen, of course, starred for the Pirates for the first nine seasons of his career, winning the NL MVP Award in 2013 and, arguably, putting up a better season the following year when he came in third in the voting. He was, without question, the face of the franchise and a quite likable one at that while he wore the black and gold. The dude loved Pittsburgh so much he named his son, born last fall, Steel.

While a lot of former stars return to boos, it wasn’t like McCutchen chose to go. The Pirates traded him to the Giants on Jan. 15 for reliever Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. It was not a popular deal among the Pirate fan base, who saw the trade as the biggest in a series of moves they perceived to be aimed more at cutting payroll and improving the team’s bottom line than in trying to build a winning Pirates team.

Not that the Pirates have been bad this year. They’re 21-16, a game out of first in the NL Central, and head into the series winners of three in a row and four of their last five. The Giants, meanwhile, who traded for McCutchen in a “win-now” move, are 19-19 and just dropped four in a row to the Phillies. The best laid plans, etc. etc.

NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic spoke to McCutchen about his return to the Steel City. He certainly sounds eager to return. As for the fans: it should be a nice moment when the P.A. announcer calls out his name.

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.