PITTSBURGH (AP) — Albert Pujols hit his 697th home run, passing Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the career list and doing it in spectacular fashion with a ninth-inning drive that rallied the St. Louis Cardinals to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 Sunday.
Cardinals at the top of NL Central trailed 2-1 when Pujols connected for a two-point drive. Pujols tied Rodriguez with a home run on Saturday night.
Pujols trails Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the all-time home run charts.
“There is impressive and then there is incredible” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “What we are witnessing right now is legendary. You have to take a step back from the management of the game and assimilate everything. It’s incredible.
In his quest for 700 home runs, the 42-year-old Pujols has 21 games left in his 22nd and final major league season. He hit 18 home runs this year.
“This opportunity only comes once and it is something that is a gift that God has given me and I try to take advantage of it every day,” said Pujols. “I’m not just making memories for myself, but for the fans, my family and the people who love me.”
“At the end of the day, it’s pretty awesome and we play great baseball and have a great group of teammates,” he said.
The Cardinals went to the ninth inning down 2-0 but scored four runs against Chase DeJong (4-2).
Tommy Edman and Corey Dickerson started with back-to-back doubles to produce the first inning. Pujols followed with his home run to put the Cardinals in the lead.
One out after Pujols connected, Tyler O’Neil hit a solo shot to cap St. Louis’ big inning.
The Cardinals won on a day when first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado, two NL MVP candidates, got the day off.
De Jong came into the game with a 19 innings scoreless streak.
“Really poor execution lagging behind a very good hitter” De Jong said of Pujols’ home run. “I left a fastball in the middle of home plate. It should have been broken. The things that were supposed to be on top were on the bottom, and the things that were supposed to be below the zone stayed in the zone. It’s entirely on me, and I have to execute better in key situations like that.
Greg Allen’s two-out homer in the bottom of the ninth drew the Pirates to 4-3. Ryan Helsley then flew Ben Gamel for his 16th save.
Chris Stratton (8-4) retired both batters he faced.
The Cardinals had been shut out on three hits in the first eight innings, but rallied for their eighth win in their last 11 games. The Pirates missed a chance to win their first series since sweeping Milwaukee Aug. 2-4.
Edman had two hits to bring his hitting streak to 13 games.
Mitch Keller pitched seven scoreless innings for the Pirates, allowing just two singles.
He struck out six and walked three.
The Cardinals’ Jose Quintana threw a run for a run in 5 1/3 innings. It was his first start against the Pirates since they traded him to St. Louis on Aug. 1.
Rookie Jack Suwinski homered in the seventh to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. Oneil Cruz drove in the first inning of the game with a groundout in the third.
ANOTHER WINNING SEASON
The Cardinals clinched their 15th straight winning season on Saturday night with a 7-5 win over the Pirates. This equals the franchise record set from 1939 to 1953.
Pirates manager Derek Shelton was ejected by plate umpire Clint Vondrak in the third inning for going for a failed third strike on Bryan Reynolds. It was Shelton’s fourth ejection of the season.
Cardinals: Off Monday before opening a three-game home series with Milwaukee on Tuesday. LHP Jordan Montgomery (8-3, 3.08) will start for St. Louis. He’s 5-0 with a 1.45 ERA in seven starts since being acquired from the New York Yankees in a trade.
Pirates: Open a four-game series in Cincinnati on Monday with RHP Bryse Wilson (2-8, 6.11) facing LHP Mike Minor (4-10, 5.70). Wilson is 0-2 with a 6.85 ERA in his last five games.