Pujols hits 703rd home run, passes Babe Ruth for 2nd in RBIs
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Move over, Babe. Prince Albert is the new No. 2 on a big baseball list.
Albert Pujols hit his 703rd home run Monday night, breaking a tie with Babe Ruth for second place in career RBIs.
The 42-year-old slugger connected for the St. Louis Cardinals off Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller, pulling a two-run shot into the left-field stands to snap a scoreless tie in the sixth inning. It was Pujols’ 35th home run at PNC Park, his most at any visiting ballpark.
The drive pushed Pujols’ total to 2,216 RBIs, surpassing Ruth on the all-time chart. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,297.
“Passing Babe Ruth is a big deal,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said after his team’s 3-2 loss. “Seeing him hit a home run in that situation was fun to watch. You feel pretty good about where you’re at whenever he swings, and his home runs have been very meaningful.”
Pujols, who plans to retire after the season, has 24 home runs — his most since hitting 31 for the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. He is one of four players in major league history with 700, joining Barry Bonds (762), Aaron (755) and Ruth (714).
Pujols did not speak with reporters following the game. The three-time MVP and 11-time All-Star had been hitless in eight career at-bats against Keller.
“It’s an amazing time to be around him and being around this team,” Cardinals starting pitcher Jose Quintana said. “He keeps believing in his abilities. The most impressive thing is he homers, then he’s ready for the next one. He wants to keep going.”
With all due respect to the great two-way Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge is the AL MVP for a number of reasons. Not only did Judge put together one of the greatest single seasons in baseball history, he carried the Yankee offense, which sputtered through much of the season. And without him, the Yankees certainly would not have run away with the AL East the way they did. Judge plays every day, leads the majors in nine different categories and is superb defensively in both right and center field. And yes we know Ohtani’s 15 victories are third-most in the AL and his 34 homers fourth. But he did it for a team that is 15 games under .500 and 31 games out of first place. Any other year Ohtani would probably be the MVP, but this year Judge was far more valuable to the Yankees.
Frank Franklin II
The easy choice is Paul Goldschmidt who’s having a career season, leading the NL in OBP, slugging, OPS and total bases as the driving force in the Cardinals’ taking command of the NL Central. But teammate Nolan Arenado has been almost as productive, and if the Mets are able to win the NL East, Edwin Diaz, who’s had one of the most dominant seasons of any closer in history, has to be in the MVP conversation. I suspect, when pushed, Buck Showalter would say Diaz has been his overall most indispensable player this year; that, without him, the Mets would be hard-pressed to even make the postseason. Honorable Mention for Pete Alonso who’s had a monster career season with nearly 20 more RBIs than his nearest NL counterpart, but Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil have been equally indispensable to the Mets offense.
Much as we admire 39-year-old comebacker Justin Verlander (major league-leading 17 wins, 1.80 ERA), his month-long injury in mid-August opened the door for the White Sox numbingly consistent Dylan Cease, whose 2.06 ERA going into October was second in the majors to Verlander and set a major league record with 14 straight starts of allowing one or fewer runs. Cease was the one bright light in an otherwise miserably underachieving White Sox season. Besides, Verlander’s already won two Cys and his place as a first-ballot Hall of Famer is secure. How much more does he need?
The Dodgers’ Julio Urias (17-7, 2.12 ERA going into October) has been dominant but most everyone agrees the most feared and best starting pitcher in the National League is Marlins’ workhorse ace Sandy Alcantara (14-9, 2.28 ERA and a major league-leading 228 2/3 innings and six complete games with a bad team). In this day and age we especially appreciate durability. Special mention: Braves’ No. 3 starter, homegrown Kyle Wright, the majors' only 20-game winner.
Mark J. Terrill
As further testament to the best player development system in baseball, Gold Glove-caliber center fielder Michael Harris II, who was slashing .305/.344./531 going into October, is one of eight key homegrown Braves, along with fellow rookie standout, righty starter Spencer Strider. Harris is a budding superstar whose primary competition was Strider (11-5, 2.67 ERA, 202K in 131 2/3 IP) until he went down with an oblique injury in September.
Despite the remarkable turnaround season the Orioles had under Brandon Hyde, going from 110 losses to 80-plus wins, this may have been the best managing job of all by Hall of Fame-bound Terry Francona. Not too many picked the Guardians to win the AL Central, probably because so many of their players were (and still are) unfamiliar names as the youngest team in baseball. But Francona kept them hovering in second place until Aug. 9 as they quietly matured, before they climbed into first place and never relinquished it, going 12-3 against their prime competitors, the Twins and White Sox, down the stretch.
Who else but Buck? Showalter changed the entire Mets culture and has kept the Mets in first place (but for one day in April) the whole year, for their first postseason berth since 2016. Honorable mention: The Cardinals’ Oliver Marmol, who won a division title in his first year. But let’s be honest here. If the Mets win the NL East, Buck should be unanimous.
The rise of the Guardians to AL Central champs is the culmination of President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti’s gradual rebuild that began in 2016. In particular, Antonetti made three major trades, all of which worked out splendidly: Francisco Lindor to the Mets that reaped second baseman Andres Gimenez and shortstop Amed Rosario; righty starter Mike Clevinger to the Padres that brought back frontline starter Cal Quantrill, defense-plus catcher Austin Hedges and first baseman Josh Naylor, and Corey Kluber to the Rangers for All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase.
When he failed to acquire a much-needed lefty reliever at the trading deadline it was all “what have you done for us lately?” for Mets GM Billy Eppler. Forgotten was his stupendous offseason that produced Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Chris Bassitt and Adam Ottavino, all of whom have made major contributions to the transformation of a 77-85 Mets team in 2021 to potential NL East champions.
St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols hits career home run No. 703 during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)