Albert Pujols is back, perhaps for the last time as a player, in the city where he built an extraordinary career with credentials for the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.
Pujols and the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the St. Louis Cardinals, two of the most successful National League clubs of all time, for a four-game series that will inevitably have a direct impact on the race for postseason spots.
While Los Angeles (86-51) escorts the San Francisco Giants (87-50) in the Western Division and has possession of the first wild card, St. Louis (69-66) fights with the Cincinnati Reds (73-65), San Diego Padres (72-64) and Philadelphia Phillies, among others, the second Wild Card. The Cardinals begin the week three games away from a playoff invitation.
“I am very grateful for this opportunity, to be in a great organization like the Dodgers and where it is. That’s what you play ball for, to win, ”Pujols said Sunday in a conference call before the last game against the Giants at Oracle Park.
“Trying to help win again is the focus, not just mine, but all the guys in that clubhouse,” added Pujols, whose role with the Dodgers has shrunk since the acquisition of infielder Trea Turner and the return of the disabled list of some key figures, including shortstop Corey Seager and third baseman Justin Turner.
On Sunday, in his fourth straight pinch hitter, Pujols hit a home run, his 16th of the season and his 11th with the Dodgers, but could not avoid a loss in the decisive game of the series to San Francisco.
Before the game, manager Dave Roberts reported that his illustrious substitute player, who has only been in the starting lineup once in the last seven games, will have the opportunity to play on his return to Busch Stadium.
“Albert will play in a couple of games in the series,” Roberts said. “On Tuesday and Thursday, when they open left-handed pitchers, Pujols will be in the starting lineup,” added the pilot. JA Happ (Tuesday) and Kwang Hyun-Kim (Thursday) are the lefties scheduled to start for St. Louis, which will start the series with right-hander Miles Mikolas.
Pujols, 41, was acquired by the Dodgers after being fired by the Los Angeles Angels on May 13, in the final season of his 10-year, $ 240 million contract. One of the most productive hitters in history, Pujols has 48 RBIs in 253 at-bats with the two in 2021.
“That’s where it all started for me. Great people, great fans. They practically became my family, ”Pujols said. “I’m very excited to be back and hopefully, you know, that we have a good series and then come home on Thursday,” he added.
Pujols has previously been on the road in St. Louis. It was two years ago, when he hit 11-4 with a home run and was cheered for three days by fans and recognized by his former teammates, mainly Puerto Rican catcher Yadier Molina.
The 10-time All-Star has 3,296 hits (including 678 home runs and 672 doubles), 2,148 RBIs and 1,869 scored in 21 major league seasons.
But it was in a Cardinals uniform that Pujols dug the foundation for the Hall of Fame path, hitting .328 with 445 homers, 455 doubles, 1,329 RBIs, .420 OBP and 1,307 OPS in 11 extraordinary seasons. .
Between 2001 and 2010, he was Rookie of the Year and a three-time MVP of the National League, in addition to being the only player in history with 10 consecutive seasons with a .300 average, 30 doubles, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. , starting a career. In 2011, his senior year with the Cardinals, he hit .299 with 39 homers, 29 doubles and 99 RBIs.
The Cardinals announced that Monday’s “Labor Day” ticket sales will surpass the season record at Busch Stadium (41,369 for the July 22 game against the Chicago Cubs) and that the special ticket offer at $ 5.55, reflecting Pujols’ jersey number in St. Louis, he should drive assists in excess of 35,000 a day for the remainder of the series.
One of the clubs with the best assists each year, the Cardinals averaged 23,771 fans per game in a season affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“More than seeing me, the fans want to see two great teams, two great organizations with history and that are playing very well. I would not say they will go to the stadium for me, but I thank God for the opportunity to be able to return to San Luis, “said Pujols.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think this week is going to be focused on me. I think it’s about the Cardinals and Dodgers organizations, you know, and we’re both in it, trying to get to the playoffs, “said the slugger.