Pujols blasts two more HRs, Cardinals beat Diamondbacks 16-7

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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.

Lars Nootbaar‘s two-run triple in the sixth pushed the Cardinals ahead 7-4. Nootbaar also scored on the play, scampering home after right fielder Daulton Varsho bobbled the ball in the corner.

The Diamondbacks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on Christian Walker‘s sacrifice fly and Carson Kelly‘s RBI single that dropped just in front of a diving Nootbaar in right field.

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.

GOLD GLOVES

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.

ROSTER MOVES

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.

UP NEXT

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).

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closed out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before 15-game winner Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).