Every single Cardinals fan in Busch Stadium Sunday — and not ONE single Cubs fan — was hoping that Albert Pujols would come to bat one final time against the Cubs in the last 2022 game between the two teams and hit a home run.
Welp. That’s exactly what happened, a two-run shot, and that was the difference in the Cardinals’ 2-0 win over the Cubs on a rainy afternoon where the start of the game was delayed nearly 90 minutes.
This recap will focus on that home run.
Marcus Stroman threw seven brilliant innings, yet another fantastic outing for him away from Wrigley Field. He threw 98 pitches (66 strikes), allowed four hits (two singles, two doubles) and didn’t walk anyone. His ERA in road games dropped to 1.83 (12 starts, 68⅓ innings). Seriously, if I’m David Ross I try to arrange the rotation so Stroman starts only road games the rest of the year.
Stroman was helped out by some fine defense. Here’s Ian Happ making a fine sliding catch in the second inning [VIDEO].
All that is really, really good stuff.
Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas did Stroman one better — eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits (a single by Christopher Morel, a double by Franmil Reyes) and a walk.
So the game went to the bottom of the eighth scoreless. David Ross had choices going into this inning — and during it — so let’s look at them.
Brandon Hughes was sent out to pitch. Two of the first four hitters due up were lefthanded (Lars Nootbaar and Brendan Donovan). Coming into this game, Hughes had held RH hitters to a lower OPS (.607 in 110 PA) than LH hitters (.655 OPS, 77 PA). It’s an absolutely defensible move. Plus, this is learning time, not necessarily “winning games time” — Ross and the front office need to see who could be a useful part of the 2023 bullpen.
Hughes retired Andrew Knizner and then Tommy Edman doubled.
Cardinals manager Oli Marmol sent Pujols up to bat for Nootbaar. This was utterly predictable, given the platoon situation AND the fact that it’s the kind of situation Pujols has always loved.
The question here isn’t whether to have Hughes in the game — once he’s in, he had to face that hitter, it’s the third batter of the inning. He has faced Pujols exactly once before now — he hit him with a pitch August 4 in the first game of a doubleheader.
The question, with first base open, is why didn’t Ross order Pujols intentionally walked? Oh, how the crowd would have booed, but the Cubs don’t care about that.
The only answer here is: This is a situation for Hughes to get this particular hitter out, to see how he reacts in this sort of situation. Obviously, it didn’t work and the Pujols home run gave the Cardinals the win.
Remember: Wins don’t matter right now. Yes, of course we want the Cubs to win games, but at 20+ games under .500, what difference does it make? Find out what you’ve got in the bullpen for 2023.
That’s how I see it, anyway.
For Pujols, it was his 695th career home run, one more and he ties Alex Rodriguez for fourth place on the all-time list. It was his 59th against the Cubs. That broke a tie with Gil Hodges for eighth-most against the Cubs all-time. The top eight now: Willie Mays (92), Henry Aaron (87), Mike Schmidt (78), Mel Ott (77), Stan Musial (67), Eddie Mathews (64), Duke Snider (60) and Pujols. The other seven all played at least 70 more games against the Cubs than Pujols did, and some played almost 150 more. It’s a really impressive feat and a tip o’ the cap to Pujols for an incredible career that will wind up on a stage in Cooperstown in a few years.
The Cubs will have Labor Day off — yes, some teams do these days on holidays — and open a three-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field Tuesday evening. We are told that Wade Miley will come off the injured list and start against his old team in that game. He’ll be opposed by Justin Dunn. Game time Tuesday is 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.
Should the Cubs have intentionally passed Albert Pujols in that situation in this game?
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