Nelson Cruz hits two homers, drives in seven

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Nelson Cruz turned 40 earlier this month. Early middle age is wearing well on the guy.

The Minnesota Twins’ designated hitter put on an offensive display against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago yesterday afternoon, hitting two homers and two doubles and driving in seven runs to help the Twins to a 14-2 victory over the White Sox.

In so doing, Cruz became the fourth-oldest player in Major League history with seven RBI in a game. He’s in pretty good company, too. The three guys older than him to do it: Stan Musial, Jason Giambi and Reggie Jackson. Cruz also became the second-oldest player in American League history to notch four extra-base hits in a game. The oldest: Rickey Henderson.

Cruz notched his doubles in the first and second innings, hit a solo homer in the fourth and hit a three-run shot in the eighth, finishing the game 4-for-5, scoring four runs and accounting for two of the seven he drove in. Not that any of this was news to the White Sox. Last year Cruz hit .433/.521/.917 against them. He was asked about that after the game:

“It’s nothing against any one, you know. I just try to do my job. If you ask the Royals, they’d probably say that too. For me, it’s just business.”

Either way, playing in the AL Central wears well on the guy.

Cruz signed a one-year, $14.3 million deal with the Twins before the 2019 season and proceeded to hit .311/.392/.639 with 41 homers and 108 runs batted in. It was his best year ever measured by OPS+. Still, because that contract had a $12 million team option on it for 2020 — and because, let’s face it, you don’t always do well gambling on an aging slugger — he took a pay cut for this season even before the campaign was shortened to 60 games.

Then again, people were saying Nelson Cruz was a risk back when he signed with the Mariners before the 2015 season. All he’s done since then, excluding the 2020 campaign, is hit .288/.367/.561 (OPS+ 151) while averaging 41 homers and 104 RBI. On this young season he’s 7-for-13 with three homers already. He has 404 dingers lifetime despite the fact that he never even played in 100 games in a year until his age-28 season.

Fine wine, man. Fine wine.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.