Pujols hits 703rd HR to pass Babe for 2nd in RBI; Cardinals lose

St. Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols hit his 703rd home run Monday night, breaking a tie with Babe Ruth for second place in career RBIs, but the St. Louis Cardinals lost to Pittsburgh 3-2 when the Pirates drew four consecutive walks in the ninth inning to force home the winning run.

The 42-year-old slugger connected off right-hander Mitch Keller, pulling a two-run shot into the left-field stands to snap a scoreless tie in the sixth. It was Pujols’ 35th career home run at PNC Park, his most at any visiting ballpark.

The drive gave Pujols 2,216 RBIs, passing Ruth on the all-time list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,297.

“Passing Babe Ruth is a big deal,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “Seeing him hit a home run in that situation was fun to watch. You feel pretty good about where you’re at whenever he swings, and his home runs have been very meaningful.”

Pujols, who plans to retire after the season, has 24 home runs this year – his most since hitting 31 for the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. He is one of four players in major league history with 700, joining Barry Bonds (762), Aaron (755) and Ruth (714).

Pujols, who did not speak with reporters following the game, had been hitless in eight career at-bats against Keller.

“It’s an amazing time to be around him and being around this team,” Cardinals starting pitcher Jose Quintana said. “He keeps believing in his abilities. The most impressive thing is he homers, then he’s ready for the next one. He wants to keep going.”

With the score tied 2-all in the ninth, the Pirates loaded the bases when Ke'Bryan Hayes, Miguel Andujar and Rodolfo Castro drew consecutive walks from Giovanny Gallegos (3-6).

JoJo Romero relieved and walked Oneil Cruz on four pitches to end the game. It was the first walk-off plate appearance of the rookie’s career.

Before the game, the Cardinals signed Gallegos to a two-year contract worth $11 million that runs through 2024.

Yohan Ramirez (4-1) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win.

“There were a lot of signs of resilience,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of the winning rally.

The Pirates avoided a second straight 100-loss season – at least for now – by beating the NL Central champion Cardinals for the second consecutive day.

Paul Goldschmidt led off the St. Louis sixth with a single before Pujols connected. Keller was chased after giving up two more singles in the inning.

The Pirates rallied to tie it at 2. Bryan Reynolds doubled home a run in the sixth and Jack Suwinski homered off Andre Pallante in the eighth.

Normally a starter, Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas allowed one run in three innings of relief. He followed Quintana, who pitched three scoreless innings.

Mikolas reached the 200-inning mark, raising his season total to 202 1/3.

“It’s just a nice ending to the season to get there,” Mikolas said. “It’s a mark you don’t see a tremendous amount of guys get to anymore, so it’s always kind of nice to separate yourself from the pack.”

St. Louis used the starters in tandem as Marmol attempts to set his staff for postseason play. The Cardinals host a best-of-three wild-card series beginning Friday, and Marmol has not decided on his rotation.

“It allows us the flexibility to still start them in any game of that three-game set,” he explained before the game.

Keller allowed two runs and six hits in five innings.

PIRATES MOVES

RHP Nick Mears was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and RHP Luis Ortiz was optioned to the same club. Ortiz made his major league debut Sept. 13 and went 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: 3B Nolan Arenado was scratched from the lineup 15 minutes before the game because of a slight quadriceps strain. He might also sit out Tuesday night as a precaution. . OF Tyler O'Neill (strained left hamstring) went through a full baseball workout but the Cardinals are still uncertain if he will be ready to play by Friday. . RHP Jordan Hicks will either be activated from the injured list and pitch in Wednesday’s regular-season finale or throw a bullpen that day.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Dakota Hudson (8-7, 4.07 ERA) will start Tuesday night. He has allowed one unearned run over 11 innings in two appearances since being recalled from Triple-A Memphis on Sept. 21. RHP Jack Flaherty is expected to pitch in relief as a postseason tune-up.

Pirates: RHP JT Brubaker (3-11, 4.58) will come off the injured list and start. He has been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.