David Wright available for Mets vs. Braves

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NEW YORK — The end of the final week of the season will be nostalgic and bittersweet for the New York Mets. The beginning will serve to remind the Mets of a past they’d thought was buried, and how far they have to go to catch a familiar foe.

David Wright‘s final homestand as a major leaguer is scheduled to begin Tuesday night, when the Mets activate their former All-Star third baseman prior to the opener of a three-game series against the National League East champion Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.

The Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (12-4, 3.36 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Braves rookie Touki Toussaint (2-1, 4.30 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.

Both teams were off Monday after earning wins Sunday, when the Braves completed a four-game sweep of the visiting Philadelphia Phillies with a 2-1 victory and the Mets beat the host Washington Nationals, 8-6.

The Mets (73-83) took three of four from the Nationals and have gone 41-35 since July 1 to ensure a respectable finish to a season that spiraled out of control during a 5-21 June. But New York will be looking much further back over the final six-game homestand, when Wright will be on the active roster for the first time since May 2016.

Wright, who was on a Hall of Fame track before his career was derailed by back, neck and shoulder injuries, is expected to be available as a pinch-hitter before making a final start against the Miami Marlins on Saturday night.

“I wouldn’t mind getting him in there and getting him a pinch-hit at-bat when it makes sense in the Braves series,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway told reporters Sunday.

While Wright, whose contract runs through 2020, is not expected to officially retire, the 35-year-old said during an emotional press conference Sept. 13 that it’s too painful for him to continue playing baseball.

If this is it for Wright, he will end his career with the Mets in the same position they were when he made his debut in 2004 — chasing the Braves (88-68), who clinched their first NL East title since 2013 with a 5-3 win over the Phillies on Saturday.

The Braves, of course, set an American professional sports record by winning 14 straight division titles from 1991 through 2005. The Mets finished second or third in the NL East seven times from 1995, Atlanta’s first full season in the NL East, through 2005.

The Braves, who lost at least 90 games in each of the previous three seasons, appeared to be at least a year away from contending, but a mix of elite prospects such as Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies and reliable veterans such as NL Most Valuable Player candidates Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis vaulted Atlanta back into the playoffs.

Now the Braves are focused on tuning up for the playoffs while trying to secure the highest seed possible and homefield advantage in the playoffs. Atlanta entered Monday 3 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs for the top spot in the NL and one game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for the second seed.

“We’re going to do the best we can to get (a higher seed) within the scope of giving a guy or two a day off next week,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told reporters Sunday.

Syndergaard took the loss in his most recent start last Wednesday, when he allowed three runs over four innings as the Mets fell to the Phillies, 4-0. Toussaint earned the win in his fourth career start last Wednesday after surrendering two runs over 5 1/3 innings in the Braves’ 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Syndergaard is 0-2 with a 4.13 ERA in six career starts against the Braves. Toussaint has never faced the Mets.

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.