If Albert Pujols doesn’t play Sunday in the Diamondbacks’ series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals, he’s almost certainly hit his last home run at Chase Field. The Cardinals won’t be returning to Phoenix this regular season.
Make that home runs. The veteran slugger wowed a big crowd that filled the lower deck at the ball park with two rockets over the wall in left center field for solo shots, then came up just short of a third home run and stunned the crowd by trying to steal second base .
He was thrown out, to the dismay of many.
“It’s part of the game, a good night, trying to help the team win,” Pujols said in Spanish. “That’s all the hard work that I put in day in and day out, so that’s nothing surprising.”
Former Cardinal Carson Kelly drove in three runs with a pair of run-scoring singles, but the Diamondbacks couldn’t hold two two-run leads Saturday night and fell 16-7 to the National League Central-leading Cardinals.
On Mexican Heritage Night, 34,248 fans filled the seats at Chase Field with a concert set for after the game on the field. But Pujols was the star attraction on the diamond, fans of both teams roaring for the 42-year-old, three-time NL Most Valuable Player and 11-time All-Star.
Pujols took Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner (6-13) deep twice, then hit the base of the left-field wall for a long single in his third at-bat of the night in the sixth inning. With a single in his fourth and final at-bat in the seventh inning, Pujols finished 4-for-4, raising his career home run total to 692 and hit total to 3,354.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said its an honor to be on the same field as Pujols.
“I think all the baseball fans that are here watching Albert Pujols understand that they’re watching somebody who’s pretty special, who’s done it at a very high level for a very long time,” Lovullo said. “And he’s just is so professional and just such a good human being that I think the fans appreciate that.”
Pujols also moved into second place all-time in MLB history in total bases with 6,143, ahead of Cardinals legend and Hall-of-Famer Stan Musial.
He trails only Hank Aaron in that category, but by more than 700 bases. With one more game for the Cardinals and possibly Pujols in Phoenix, he has 12 home runs — including the first of his MLB career in 2001 — and 47 runs batted in in 51 games at Chase Field.
“That’s probably the best he’s ever hit me. It should be. It’s hard to do much better, you know,” Bumgarner said. “Yeah, sometimes, it’s amazing.”
Pujols became the first player in MLB history with four hits and two home runs in the same game, at age 42 or older.
“It’s a blessing to have all of these fans supporting your career,” Pujols said, acknowledging the crowd’s cheers for him.
“He means a lot to the city of St. Louis, to the organization, to the fans,” Kelly said of Pujols. “He’s a tremendous player. And it’s one of those things where to see him do his thing, and unfortunately, it was against us… But he means a lot to that to that city, that organization and that fan base. “
Pujols was pinch hit for in the top of the ninth, drawing a chorus of boos that weren’t necessarily intended for local guy Nolan Gorman, the pinch hitter. Gorman delivered, the former Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor High School star with an RBI single off Diamondbacks reliever Mark Melancon.
That inning saw the Cardinals score seven of their eight runs on a Paul DeJong grand slam and Paul Goldschmidt’s three-run homer.
The Diamondbacks (55-65) led 2-0 and 4-2, but St. Louis broke a 4-4 tie on Lars Nootbaar’s triple to right field that Arizona’s Daulton Varsho couldn’t corral. The fielding error allowed Nootbaar to race home for the third run on the play.
The Diamondbacks were one out away from escaping the sixth inning before Nootbaar’s triple, off reliever Noé Ramirez after Bumgarner had exited. Nootbaar had three hits and 3 RBI on the night, reaching base five times.
Jake McCarthy led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo home run to right field, his fourth of the season, to make it 8-5. The Diamondbacks made it a one-run game in the same inning, Kelly scoring on a Jordan Hicks wild pitch and Sergio Alcántara coming home on Alek Thomas’ infield hit.
Thomas was stranded at third base, however, and the first seven Cardinals reached base in the top of the ninth off Diamondbacks relievers Melancon and Edwin Uceta. DeJong cleared the bases.
The inning saw former Diamondbacks star Goldschmidt, still cheered by Arizona fans, bat twice and hear MVP chants from Cardinals fans. Then every one watched Goldschmidt hit a line drive over the right field fence for the sixth, seventh and eighth runs of the inning.
Get in touch with Jose Romero at [email protected] Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism