Pujols homers as Montgomery, Cardinals blank Cubs 1-0

St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
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CHICAGO – Albert Pujols reached out and drove Drew Smyly‘s high fastball through the night sky at Wrigley Field.

Just like that, it was over. Put Smyly on Pujols’ list.

Pujols hit career homer No. 693, Jordan Montgomery pitched a one-hitter and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 on Monday for their season-high eighth straight victory.

Pujols led off the seventh with a drive to left-center for his seventh homer in his last 10 games and No. 14 overall in his final big league season. There was a noticeable round of cheers from the crowd of 29,719 as the three-time NL MVP rounded the bases on his second hit of the night.

“I think at the end of the day you know you have to trust your work, and that’s something that I do,” the 42-year-old Pujols said. “I come out here, no matter where I’m playing, and continue to do my work for 22 years.”

Pujols matched Barry Bonds’ major league record by homering off his 449th different pitcher. It was Pujols’ 940th multihit game, snapping a tie with Paul Waner for 10th on the career list.

Smyly (5-7) called it a tough way to lose, given the pitch was way out of the strike zone.

“I was thinking just change his eye level and like, you know, don’t let him hit it obviously was my thought,” Smyly said.

“But he’s `The Machine’ for a reason. He’s back.”

That one run was all Montgomery (7-3) needed. The left-hander struck out seven and walked none in his first career complete game, improving to 4-0 with a sparkling 0.35 ERA in four starts since he was acquired in an Aug. 2 trade with the New York Yankees.

“Every bullpen I’m working on something and then when I get to take the ball, I’m competing and just trying to make pitches,” he said.

Rookie Christopher Morel doubled with two out in the third for Chicago’s only hit. Morel hustled into third when shortstop Paul DeJong mishandled the relay from left fielder Tyler O'Neill. But Montgomery retired Nick Madrigal on a grounder to DeJong, ending the inning.

Montgomery threw 99 pitches for the NL Central leaders in the opener of a five-game series, 65 for strikes.

“That’s a pretty special outing,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.

Chicago wasted a sharp performance by Smyly (5-7) in its second straight loss after a five-game win streak. The lefty allowed four hits, struck out six and walked two in seven innings.

“He’s throwing the ball really well for us,” manager David Ross said. “That was a really impressive night from both starters, obviously.”

WORTH NOTING

Yadier Molina went 0 for 3 for St. Louis after missing the previous two games so he could be with his basketball team in Puerto Rico for the end of its championship run. The 40-year-old Molina owns the Vaqueros de Bayamon, who beat San German 75-61 on Saturday to clinch their 16th Baloncesto Superior Nacional title.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: LHP Steven Matz (left MCL tear) is slated to throw another side session on Wednesday. … Marmol said he got a positive report on Jack Flaherty‘s third rehab start on Sunday. Flaherty, who is coming back from a strained right shoulder, threw four innings of one-run ball for Double-A Springfield. Flaherty will make another rehab start with Triple-A Memphis on Friday, going up to about 80 pitches. “Once we go through that, we’ll sit down … and figure out what’s next,” Marmol said.

Cubs: 3B Patrick Wisdom (injured ring finger on this left hand) was out of the staring lineup, but manager David Ross said he was available off the bench. … RHP Kyle Hendricks will not return this season. Hendricks is recovering from a capsular tear in his shoulder. … RHP Adbert Alzolay (right shoulder strain) was slated to begin a rehab assignment in the Arizona Complex League on Monday night.

UP NEXT

The teams play a split doubleheader Tuesday. Adam Wainwright (9-8, 3.11 ERA) starts the opener for St. Louis, and Jake Woodford (2-0, 2.66 ERA) takes the mound for the second game. Javier Assad makes his major league debut for Chicago in Game 1, and Adrian Sampson (1-3, 3.51 ERA) gets the ball for the nightcap.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.