Pujols hits 696th HR, ties A-Rod for 4th; Cardinals beat Pirates

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols hit his 696th home run, tying Alex Rodriguez for fourth place on the career list, and the St. Louis Cardinals rallied past the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5 Saturday night.

Pujols trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the all-time homer chart. The 42-year-old Pujols has 22 games left in his 22nd and final season in the big leagues.

“I don’t care who I tied,” Pujols said. “At the end of the day, it’s about tying (the game) for the team and giving them an opportunity to pick up a win. … It’s pretty special. I think I’m aware of where I am in the history of the game. But at the end of the day, 21 years ago when I make the ballclub, that wasn’t something that I was chasing.

“Twenty-two years later, I don’t think I’m going to change my approach,” he continued. “I think I’m going to let things happen and try to enjoy it. If it happens, it happens. If not, at the end of the day, I think everybody, including myself, are pretty blessed with the career that I have.”

With St. Louis down 3-1 in the sixth, Pujols connected on a first-pitch slider from JT Brubaker. He sent a two-run shot 418 feet into the left-field bleachers at PNC Park, launched with an exit velocity of 111.2 mph.

“I know it’s a historic home run, but it still sucks,” Brubaker said. “I should have walked off that mound giving our team the lead and I didn’t do it. That bothers me.”

Pujols also doubled and singled for the NL Central leaders. His RBI single in the eighth made it 4-all.

“Albert, three knocks. Big homer there,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. ” … Fouled two pitches off in the top of the zone. He knew he had to make an adjustment to get on top of it. Was able to let it get a little deep, got on top of it for a single. Drove in that run. That’s a pro at bat.”

Nolan Arenado broke the tie with a three-run double with two outs in the ninth off Wil Crowe (5-9).

“You have a guy that is grinding right now,” Marmol said. “He’s played a lot of games in a row. Head stays in it, gives us a good at bat there and drives in three runs. That was nice to see.”

Giovanny Gallegos (3-5) pitched a perfect eighth inning for the Cardinals. Ryan Helsley allowed a two-out RBI single from Bryan Reynolds in the ninth before getting Rodolfo Castro to ground out for his 15th save.

Paul Goldschmidt was 0 for 4, dropping his average to .325 to fall behind Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Freddie Freeman (.330) in the NL batting race. His two-out walk loaded the bases in the ninth.

Oneil Cruz put the Pirates ahead 4-3 in the seventh with his 14th homer, driven over the Clemente Wall in right. The 23-year-old rookie singled in the first, extending his hit streak to a career-best seven games. He is 14 for 30 (.467) during the streak.

“He’s a good player,” Pujols said of Cruz. “Obviously, he has a great future ahead of him.”

Pittsburgh took a 3-0 lead on a pair of homers off Jack Flaherty in the first two innings, a solo shot from Castro in the first and a two-run drive from Jack Suwinski in the second. Flaherty went five innings, giving up three runs on six hits.

Brendan Donovan cut the deficit to two with a home run in the Cardinals fifth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: LHP Packy Naughton was recalled from Triple-A Memphis. . RHP James Naile was optioned to Memphis.

Pirates: RHP David Bednar threw a live batting practice on Saturday. The All-Star closer has been on the injured list with lower back tightness since Aug. 3.

UP NEXT

Cardinals LHP Jose Quintana (5-6, 3.41 ERA) will return to the mound in Pittsburgh on Sunday, going opposite RHP Mitch Keller (5-10, 4.22). Quintana and RHP Chris Stratton were sent to St. Louis on Aug. 1 in a trade that moved RHP Johan Oviedo and INF Malcolm Nunez to the Pirates. Keller allowed five hits in six shutout innings against the Mets his last time out on Tuesday.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.