Pujols, Arenado homer as Cardinals beat Rockies 9-5

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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DENVER — Albert Pujols and Nolan Arenado homered and combined for seven hits, and Jose Quintana made his second strong start for St. Louis in the Cardinals’ 9-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.

Pujols and Arenado had run-scoring hits in the Cardinals’ five-run first inning and connected on back-to-back homers in the sixth for an 8-2 lead. Pujols had four hits and finished a triple short of the cycle.

Quintana (4-5) gave up two runs and seven hits and struck out six in his second quality start since being obtain from Pittsburgh on Aug. 1. He has given two runs and eight hits in 12 innings for the Cardinals, with 13 strikeouts and four walks.

Paul DeJong tied a career high with four hits and had an RBI, Lars Nootbaar had two triples and two RBIs and Yadier Molina had two hits and an RBI as St. Louis rebounded from a 16-5 loss in the first game of the series Tuesday that broke its seven-game winning streak.

Jose Iglesias had two hits and two RBIs and Brendan Rodgers had three hits and an RBI for the Rockies, who scored three in the ninth. They had won three of five.

Quintana fared much better in his second start at Coors Field this season than in his first July 15, when the Rockies roughed him up for six runs in five innings in an 13-2 victory while he was with the Pirates.

Colorado starter Kyle Freeland (7-8) gave up 10 hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings, leaving after Molina’s single drove in DeJong for a 6-1 lead in the fifth. Freeland, who struck out one and walked two, had won his last three starts.

After Paul Goldschmidt singled to put runners on first and second with one in the first inning, Arenado doubled into the left field corner for a 1-0 lead. The ball was originally ruled foul but overturned on review after the Cardinals challenged.

Pujols, Tyler O'Neill and DeJong followed with RBI hits before Molina was hit by a pitch and Nootbaar made it 5-0 with a sacrifice fly.

GOLDEN SEASON?

Goldschmidt, vying for his first MVP award, entered Wednesday’s game leading the NL in batting average (.329), on-base percentage (.413), slugging percentage (.609) and OPS (1.022). He had 26 homers and 84 RBIs, on pace for career-highs in both.

“The way he prepares is incredible to watch,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “He’s putting together a pretty special season.”

Goldschmidt was the NL MVP runner-up with Arizona in 2013 and 2015, and he has finished in the top six five times. He led the NL in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage and OPS in 2013 but was runner-up to Andrew McCutchen.

PUJOLS CLIMBING

Pujols played in his 3,034th game Wednesday, tying Ty Cobb for fifth in major league history. He has 121 sacrifice flies, one short of breaking a tie with Hank Aaron and Frank Thomas for fourth all-time.

NO DOUGH THIS TIME

Former Rockie Arenado’s sixth-inning homer down the left field line hit the UC Health Charity banner, which promises a $5,000 donation from the Rockies’ Foundation to the American Cancer Foundation if struck. The donation is only in effect if a current (not former) Colorado player is at bat.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty (shoulder) was rained out of his first scheduled rehab appearance with Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday. Flaherty has been on the 60-day IL since June 27, a day after his third start of the season. … LHP Steven Matz (torn ligament) played catch in Colorado on Tuesday and will increase his throwing this week. There is no timetable for his return. … RHP Jake Woodford was recalled from Memphis on Wednesday, when LHP T.J. McFarland was designated for assignment.

Rockies: C Elias Diaz suffered an apparent knee injury while striking out in the eighth inning and was removed from the game. … RHP Chad Kuhl (hip) played catch Wednesday and is expected to throw a simulated game Friday. He is unlikely to need a rehab start before returning from the injured list when eligible Aug. 19. … RHP Jhoulys Chacin (toe) also is expected to throw a simulated game Friday.

UP NEXT

St. Louis RHP Dakota Hudson (6-6, 4.20 ERA) is to oppose Colorado RHP German Marquez (6-9, 5.18) in the deciding game of the three-game series. Hudson has not won in his five starts since June 28. Marquez is 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in six career starts against the Cardinals.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.