PHOENIX — St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol leaned back in his chair postgame, trying to find more superlatives to describe ageless Albert Pujols. Words weren’t easy to come by, as the slugger’s lore in baseball history continues to grow.
“Listen to the names that we’re talking about, man,” Marmol said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Pujols blasted two more homers on Saturday night, pushing his career total to 692 and helping St. Louis beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 16-7.
With the first homer, Pujols passed fellow Cardinals icon Stan Musial for No. 2 in total bases in major league history and now has 6,143. Hank Aaron is No. 1 with 6,856.
It was a vintage night for the 42-year-old Pujols, who continues to hit like a man at least a decade younger. The 11-time All-Star hit solo homers in the second and fourth off D-backs lefty Madison Bumgarner, both to almost the same spot in the left-center seats.
He nearly hit a third homer, scorching a single off the base of the left field wall in the sixth. He capped his 4-for-4 night with a ground ball single through the left side of the infield in the seventh.
Pujols could have had five hits, but Marmol elected to pinch hit rookie Nolan Gorman in the ninth.
Nobody was cheering louder than Pujols when Gorman singled.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do in baseball, have fun,” Pujols said. “When you don’t have fun, you put too much stress on yourself. It’s a great group of guys here, so it’s pretty awesome.”
Pujols needs four more homers to tie Alex Rodriguez for No. 4 all-time. He’s been on a roll over the past month, batting .386 with five homers over his past 16 games coming into Saturday.
The slugger says this is his last season. Just a few weeks ago, 700 career homers looked out of reach, but the way he’s swinging the bat, it appears very much in play.
“That’s the hard work I put in day in and day out,” Pujols said. “Nothing surprises me.”
St. Louis had an 8-4 lead going into the eighth but the D-backs rallied for three runs off reliever Jordan Hicks. Giovanny Gallegos was able to get out of the jam and the Cardinals tacked on eight insurance runs in the ninth, capped by Paul DeJong‘s grand slam and Paul Goldschmidt‘s three-run shot.
The Cardinals have won six straight games and 15 of their past 18.
Kelly finished with two hits and three RBIs. Jake McCarthy had a solo homer. Bumgarner (6-13) gave up five runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander said facing Pujols is never easy.
“That’s probably the best he’s ever hit me,” Bumgarner said. “It’d be hard to do much better.”
St. Louis starting pitcher Dakota Hudson gave up four runs over 4 1/3 innings. Genesis Cabrera (4-2) got the win in relief.
Nolan Arenado and Goldschmidt combined for the defensive play of the night in the sixth.
D-backs speedster Alek Thomas hit a high chopper into the middle of the infield. Arenado ranged over from third base, snagged the ball out of the air with his bare hand and then fired a low throw to Goldschmidt, who was able to scoop the ball from the dirt for the out.
Arenado has won nine Gold Gloves while Goldschmidt has four.
MAN ON THE MOVE
Pujols drew arguably his biggest roar from the crowd in the fifth, when he tried to steal second base.
The 235-pounder took the D-backs – and pretty much everyone else – by surprise but catcher Carson Kelly was still able to make an accurate throw for the out.
Pujols has never been known as a speedster, but has been good at picking his spots with 117 career stolen bases. He’s now been caught 43 times.
Cardinals: C Yadier Molina is away from the team for the next two days because of what Marmol called “business matters.” Marmol said he expects Molina will be back in the lineup on Monday. Molina was placed on the restricted list. C Ivan Herrera has been recalled was activated from the taxi squad.
The teams finish their three-game series on Sunday. The D-backs will pitch RHP Merrill Kelly (10-5, 2.81 ERA) while the Cardinals counter with LHP Jose Quintana (4-5, 3.38).