Albert Pujols hits his first home run since the return of the Cardinals


ST. LOUIS – Some players have a hunch they’re about to do good things, and sometimes they’re on the money. But when Albert Pujols has a hunch — and can back that hunch up with certifiable Hall of Fame credentials — opposing pitchers and even the Cardinals’ rookie manager better take notice.

About three hours before Tuesday’s first pitch, Pujols left the batting cage and called his shot to Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol. Basically, Pujols told Marmol that he could see the ball well and was about to jump on the first pitch he saw and do some serious damage with it.

Pujols did exactly that on Tuesday night, drilling the first pitch he saw from Daniel Lynch, a Statcast toss 368 feet into the left field seats for the 680th home run of his career.

Pujols’ homer, combined with a two-run shot from Nolan Arenado and a three-run homer from Andrew Knizner, saw the Cardinals beat the Royals 6-5 and move to 3-1.

“You know, when you have 680 [home runs], sometimes you can make those calls,” Pujols said of predicting his first-inning home run. “I guess it was one of those where I felt good there. I had a good idea of ​​the approach I was going to take tonight, and sometimes you get lucky and it happens.

Pujols, 42, homered in a Cardinal uniform in a regular-season game for the first time since Sept. 22, 2011 — at a time when he had 445 home runs after his historic first stint at St. Louis in 2001 to 2011. Now, 3,855 days later, Pujols has again homered to close in on 700 homers. Kansas City’s Lynch became the 441st different pitcher Pujols has hit — just behind the 449 pitchers Barry Bonds took deep.

For Pujols, he was delighted that his first home run of the season came at Busch Stadium and in front of fans who gave him numerous standing ovations on opening day. Many of those same fans roared for Pujols when he returned to St. Louis in 2019 with the Angels and in 2021 with the Dodgers. He didn’t receive a standing ovation in his first at bat on Tuesday, but he did have all 40,398 fans standing after the ball left his bat at 96.8 miles per hour. That standing ovation included a curtain call, one where Pujols clutched his chest to show his appreciation to Cardinals fans.

“The same thing I’ve always tried to communicate since I arrived here in 2001 – that I appreciate the love they’ve shown me throughout my career,” Pujols said of his gesture. “It’s something very special for me. The city is special, and this organization is special. I just want to show the fans that I appreciate them.

Marmol gained a new appreciation for Pujols’ predictive powers after he announced he was going to hit a home run and then delivered. Pujols backed up the game that he felt good about his approach to home plate with two more hard-hit singles to go along with the home run for the 241st three-hit game of his career.

However, predicting a home run and then delivering was a next level thing, Marmol said.

“He came to me during BP today and said, ‘First pitch I see today, I hit him,'” Marmol said, still amazed more than five hours later. This is the first time he’s done this to me, so I’ll believe him next time too.

Pujols said he hoped Tuesday’s performance would drive home the point he’s been trying to make since re-signing with the Cardinals midway through spring training — his return isn’t a tour. farewell, but rather a serious attempt to help. the Cardinals win the 12th World Series title in franchise history. Pujols, of course, played a big part in some of that success during his first stint in St. Louis, winning two titles and three MVPs with the Cardinals from 2001-2011. try to win it all again.

“I’ve been doing this for 22 years so I know what I need to do to prepare for the games and to be in this role, which I had last year,” Pujols said of being a DH and a hitter. “The [nostalgic] the times were over when I signed here and on opening day. Now the focus is on winning a championship. It’s not about me; these are cardinals winning a championship. It was great on [Opening Day], but now my goal is the same as it has been for 22 years: to help this organization win. The times are great, but it will be better if we can lift a championship in October. »


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