Albert Pujols hits 698th homer, helps Cardinals beat Reds 6-5

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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ST. LOUIS — Albert Pujols hit his 698th home run, a tying two-run drive in the sixth inning that sparked the St. Louis Cardinals over the Cincinnati Reds 6-5 on Friday night.

Pujols hit a first-pitch slider from Raynel Espinal 427 feet into the left-field stands for his 19th home run this season, tying the score 4-4. Pujols trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the career list.

With 2,203 RBIs, the 42-year-old Pujols moved within 11 of Ruth for second, behind Aaron’s 2,297.

Ryan Helsley struck out Kyle Farmer, Jake Fraley and Donovan Solano on nine pitches for his 18th save in 22 chances, the third immaculate inning in Cardinals history after Bob Gibson in 1969 and Jason Isringhausen in 2002.

Pujols is hitting .324 9 (45 for 139) with 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 47 games since July 10. Five of his last six home runs have come in the sixth inning or later, and his last five homers have tied the game or put St. Louis ahead.

Pujols hit a drive to T.J. Friedl at the left-field wall in the seventh. He is in his 22nd major league season and intends to retire at the end of the season.

St. Louis (85-60), which began the night with a 7 1/2-game lead over second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central, has 17 games remaining.

After Farmer homered off JoJo Romero to give Cincinnati a 5-4 lead in the seventh, Brandon Donovan walked against Ian Gibaut (1-2) leading off the bottom half, and Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado followed with consecutive RBI doubles.

Chris Stratton (9-4) got the final out of the seventh. Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty allowed four runs, six hits, two walks and two hit batters in five innings.

Goldschmidt doubled twice and got his 111th RBI.

Reds starter Fernando Cruz, wearing No. 21 to honor Roberto Clemente, retired his first five batters as an opener before hitting Pujols with a pitch and coming out of the game.

ARMS OF CHAMPIONS

Pitcher Jason Motte of the 2011 champion Cardinals and goaltender Jordan Binnington of the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues threw out ceremonial first pitches.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Reds: RHP Hunter Greene (right shoulder strain) will be activated off the injured list to start the night game of Saturday’s doubleheader, his first start since Aug. 1 at Miami.

Cardinals: OF Dylan Carlson (sprained left thumb) started in center field for Triple-A Memphis Friday night at Iowa and hit a pair of doubles in three at bats. He is expected to start for Memphis Saturday and Sunday and could rejoin the big league club Tuesday.

UP NEXT

RHP Dakota Hudson (7-7, 4.43 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Memphis to start Saturday’s day game against LHP Mike Minor (4-11, 5.78 ERA) who has not won a start against St. Louis since Aug. 25, 2013 while pitching for Atlanta. LHP Jose Quintana (5-6, 3.34 ERA), who starts the night game, is 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA in nine starts sincehe was acquired from Pittsburgh on Aug. 1.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.