Pujols’ 697th HR, moves into 4th, rallies Cardinals over Pirates

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH — Albert Pujols hit his 697th home run, moving past Alex Rodriguez into fourth place on the career list and doing it in dramatic fashion with a ninth-inning drive that rallied the St. Louis Cardinals over the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 Sunday.

The NL Central-leading Cardinals trailed 2-1 when Pujols connected for a two-run drive. Pujols had tied Rodriguez with a home run Saturday night.

Pujols trails Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the all-time homer chart.

“There’s impressive and then there’s unbelievable,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “What we’re witnessing right now is legendary. You have to take a step back from managing the game and take it all in. It’s amazing.”

In his chase for 700 homers, the 42-year-old Pujols has 21 games left in his 22nd and final season in the big leagues. He’s hit 18 home runs this year.

“This opportunity only comes once and it’s something that’s a gift God has given me and I try to take advantage of it every single day,” Pujols said. “I’m not only making memories for me but for the fans, my family and people who love me.”

“At the end of the day, it’s pretty awesome and we’re playing great baseball and have a great group of teammates,” he said.

The Cardinals went to the ninth inning trailing 2-0 but scored four runs off Chase DeJong (4-2).

Tommy Edman and Corey Dickerson led off with back-to-back doubles to produce the first run. Pujols followed with his homer to put the Cardinals on top.

One out after Pujols connected, Tyler O’Neil hit a solo shot to cap St. Louis’ big inning.

The Cardinals won on a day when first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado, two NL MVP candidates, got the day off.

De Jong entered the game with a 19-inning scoreless streak.

“Really poor execution falling behind to a really good hitter,” De Jong said of Pujols’ home run. “I left a fastball over the middle of the plate. It should’ve been down. Stuff that was supposed to be up was down, and stuff that was supposed to be below the zone stayed in the zone. That’s on me completely, and I have got to execute better in key situations like that.”

Greg Allen‘s two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth drew the Pirates within 4-3. Ryan Helsley then got Ben Gamel to fly out for his 16th save.

Chris Stratton (8-4) retired both batters he faced.

The Cardinals had been shut out on three hits through the first eight innings but rallied for their eighth win in their last 11 games. The Pirates missed a chance to win their first series since sweeping Milwaukee from Aug. 2-4.

Edman had two hits to run his hitting streak to 13 games.

Mitch Keller pitched seven scoreless innings for the Pirates, allowing just two singles. He struck out six and walked three.

The Cardinals’ Jose Quintana pitched one-run ball over 5 1/3 innings. It was his first start against the Pirates since they traded him to St. Louis on Aug. 1.

Rookie Jack Suwinski homered in the seventh to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. Oneil Cruz drove in the game’s first run with a grounder in the third.

ANOTHER WINNING SEASON

The Cardinals clinched their 15th consecutive winning season Saturday night with a 7-5 victory over the Pirates. That ties the franchise record set from 1939-53.

SHELTON EJECTED

Pirates manager Derek Shelton was ejected by home plate umpire Clint Vondrak in the third inning for arguing a checked-swing third strike on Bryan Reynolds. It was Shelton’s four ejection of the season.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Off Monday before opening a three-game home series with Milwaukee on Tuesday. LHP Jordan Montgomery (8-3, 3.08) will start for St. Louis. He is 5-0 with a 1.45 ERA in seven starts since being acquired from the New York Yankees in a trade.

Pirates: Open a four-game series at Cincinnati on Monday with RHP Bryse Wilson (2-8, 6.11) facing LHP Mike Minor (4-10, 5.70). Wilson is 0-2 with a 6.85 ERA in his last five games.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.