Jorge López loses perfect game bid in the ninth

Jorge Lopez
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Royals rookie right-hander Jorge López was three outs shy of the first perfect game in franchise history on Saturday. He dealt eight flawless innings against the Twins, striking out four of 24 batters and keeping the basepaths clear with an even 100 pitches.

In the ninth, however, things began to unravel after Max Kepler worked a 3-1 count against the righty, then took a walk after López’s fastball missed the edge of the strike zone. With the perfecto gone and the no-hitter still intact, López lasted just five more pitches against the Twins before giving up a single to Robbie Grossman, who lined an 86.5-MPH changeup into center field for the Twins’ first hit of the game. Carrying a pitch count of 110 and a comfortable four-run lead, he was given a swift exit from the mound and replaced by right-handed reliever Wily Peralta.
The Royals backed López’s extraordinary efforts with a handful of runs, from Hunter Dozier‘s RBI single in the sixth to Alberto Mondesi’s RBI double and another pair of base hits from Whit Merrifield and Alex Gordon in the seventh. The Twins spoiled the shutout in the ninth after Ehire Adrianza plated a single run on a sac fly, but they weren’t quite able to close the gap against the Royals and convert a stunning loss into a comeback.
Had López completed the perfecto, he would have been the first to do so in franchise history and the 22nd to do so in MLB history. No pitcher has recorded so much as a no-hitter for the Royals since Bret Saberhagen’s no-no against the White Sox in 1991, when he blanked the club’s division rivals with nine innings of two-walk, five-strikeout ball. On the flip side, it’s only been six years since the Twins found themselves on the losing end of a no-hitter. Former Angels hurler Jered Weaver was the last to no-hit the team after taking them to task with a 9-0 victory in 2012. Funnily enough, the league’s last three perfect games were also recorded in 2012, when the White Sox’ Philip Humber no-hit the Mariners in April, the Giants’ Matt Cain delivered a perfect game against the Astros in June, and the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez crafted a perfecto against the Rays in August.
Needless to say, this still was the strongest start the Royals had seen from López since they acquired him from the Brewers prior to the July trade deadline. While he was primarily used as a relief pitcher in Milwaukee, he transitioned to a starting role in Kansas City and entered Saturday’s game with a combined 4.26 ERA, 4.7 BB/9, and 7.4 SO/9 through 40 1/3 innings for both teams.

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.