PHOENIX — — The coach of the St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Oliver Marmol leaned back in his chair after the game, trying to find more superlatives to describe the eternal Albert Pujols. Words were not easy to come by as the slugger’s legacy in baseball history continues to grow.
“Listen to the names we’re talking about, man,” Marmol said. “It’s incredible”.
Pujols hit two more home runs Saturday night, increasing his career total to 692 and helping St. Louis to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 16-7.
With the first homer, Pujols passed fellow Cardinals Stan Musial for the No. 2 all-time base hit in Major League history and now has 6,143. Hank Aaron is #1 with 6,856.
It was a vintage night for the 42-year-old Pujols, who continues to hit like a man at least a decade younger. The 11-time All-Star hit solo home runs in the second and fourth off lefty D-back Madison Bumgarner, both in nearly the same spot in the left-center seats.
He nearly hit a third home run, singling the base of the left-field wall in the sixth. He ended his 4-for-4 night with a ground ball single through the left side of the infield in the seventh.
Pujols could have had five hits, but Marble chose to pinch hitter Nolan Gorman in the ninth.
No one cheered louder than Pujols when Gorman singled.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do in baseball, have fun,” Pujols said. “When you don’t have fun, you put too much stress on yourself. It’s a great group of guys here, so it’s pretty impressive.”
Pujols needs four more homers to tie Alex Rodriguez for No. 4 all-time. He’s been in good form over the last month, hitting .386 with five homers in his last 16 games entering Saturday.
The slugger says this is his last season. Just a few weeks ago, 700 career homers seemed out of reach, but the way he’s swinging the bat, it seems very much in play.
“It’s the hard work I do day in and day out,” Pujols said. “Nothing surprises me.”
St. Louis had an 8-4 lead in the top of the eighth, but the D-backs rallied for three runs off reliever Jordan Hicks. Giovanny Gallegos was able to get out of the jam and the Cardinals tacked on eight insurance runs in the ninth, capped by Paul DeJong’s grand slam and Paul Goldschmidt’s three-run shot.
The Cardinals have won six straight and 15 of their last 18.
Lars Nootbaar’s two-run triple in the sixth pushed the Cardinals up 7-4. Nootbaar also scored on the play, scampering home after right fielder Daulton Varsho threw the ball to the corner.
The Diamondbacks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on Christian Walker’s sacrifice fly and Carson Kelly’s RBI single that fell just in front of a Nootbaar that launched into right field.
Kelly finished with two hits and three RBI. Jake McCarthy had a solo homer. Bumgarner (6-13) gave up five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. The lefty said facing Pujols is never easy.
“It’s probably the best I’ve ever hit,” Bumgarner said. “It would be hard to do much better.”
The starting pitcher of St. Louis Dakota Hudson gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings. Genesis Cabrera (4-2) got the win in relief.
Nolan Arenado and Goldschmidt combined for the defensive play of the night in the sixth.
D-backs shortstop Alek Thomas hit a high chopper up the middle of the infield. Arenado moved from third base, caught the ball out of the air with his bare hand, then threw a low throw to Goldschmidt, who was able to get the ball out of the dirt for the out.
Arenado has won nine Gold Gloves while Goldschmidt has four.
MAN ON THE MOVE
Pujols got possibly his biggest roar from the crowd in the fifth when he attempted to steal second base.
The 235-pounder caught the D-backs — and just about everyone else — by surprise, but wide receiver Carson Kelly was still able to make an accurate throw to the outside.
Pujols has never been known as a speedster, but he has been good at picking his spots with 117 career stolen bases. He has now been caught 43 times.
The list moves
Cardinals: C Yadier Molina is out for the next two days due to what Marmol called “business matters.” Marble said he expects Molina to return to the lineup Monday. Molina was placed on the restricted list. It has been recalled that C Iván Herrera was activated from the taxi team.
UNTIL THE NEXT
The teams finish their three-game series on Sunday. The D-backs will pitch to RHP Merrill Kelly (10-5, 2.81 ERA) while the Cardinals counter with LHP Jose Quintana (4-5, 3.38).