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After mostly 10 years away, Cardinals' Pujols still is at top of PNC leader board

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PITTSBURGH — Albert Pujols was in the Cardinals’ lineup as their designated hitter on Saturday night and will be in the lineup again on Sunday morning, manager Oliver Marmol said before the game Saturday. And why not?

Of all the players who have played here since the park opened in 2001, the same year Pujols’ big-league career began, Pujols, even after going nothing for five on Saturday, is first in batting average at .371, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

“Incredible,” said Marmol before the game. “So he did well here?”

Against left-hander Jose Quintana, who pitched Saturday night, Pujols had been five for 14 (.357) with a home run while first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was eight for 14 (.571) with three home runs. Goldschmidt added two doubles and a single off Quintana.

Gorman sits vs. left-hander

While Pujols played, second baseman Nolan Gorman, who got his first major-league hit in his first at-bat on Friday, sat out against Quintana. Marmol, opening his statistics pages, noted that Gorman had an OPS of 1.200 against right-handers at Memphis and was at .655 against left-handers with a 9% higher strikeout rate against left-handers.

Edmundo Sosa, who missed a couple of games with a jammed left ankle, was at shortstop with Tommy Edman moving back to second base after one start at short. But Marmol said he expected that the Cardinals would face mostly right-handers in the coming days and that the Gorman-Edman combination would resume, specifically on Sunday.

Asked what this meant to former shortstop Paul DeJong, when he might come back from Class AAA Memphis, Marmol said, simply, “It’s a competitive game.”

Marmol said it wouldn’t bother Edman to move back and forth between second and short but didn’t plan to do it much. “Nothing affects his approach or mentality,” Marmol said.

“He takes everything in stride. If I told him he was playing center field tonight, he’d go do it. He just likes being on the field and adapts to whatever is needed.”

Edman did wind up in center field for the first time this season when he turned up there in the third inning, with Gorman going to second and Dylan Carlson leaving the game with left hamstring tightness. Carlson had been moved to center to fill in for Harrison Bader, who was a late scratch because he was “light-headed,” according to the training staff.

Gorman’s grandfather, who had come from Arizona along with other family members Friday night, was shown on the Apple TV broadcast in tears after the hit. “Yeah, he was excited,” said Gorman.

“That was really fun.”

The hit was measured at 106 mph off the bat but Gorman, asked how it felt, said, “I didn’t feel much of it. But it was awesome, getting to first base and getting the ball thrown in (to the dugout).”

Walsh is sent down

To make room for Saturday starter Matthew Liberatore on the Cardinals’ 26-man roster, the club optioned right-handed reliever Jake Walsh to Class AAA Memphis. In a corresponding move the Cardinals designated for assignment right-hander T.J. Zeuch, who had been on the 40-man roster and at Memphis.

Left-hander Liberatore, who took Zeuch’s 40-man spot, was 3-3 with a 3.83 earned run average at Memphis and ranked third among Class AAA pitchers in strikeouts with 45. A former No. 1 draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018, Liberatore became the first Cardinals pitcher to make his debut in a start against the Pittsburgh Pirates since Alan Benes in 1995 and the first left-hander to do so since Ray Sadecki in 1960.

Liberatore, 22, was wearing No. 52, the number left-handed rookie Bud Smith wore when he pitched the Cardinals’ last no-hitter in 2001.

Walsh had been impressive after his call-up but had run into command issues in his recent outings and left with an 0-1 record and 13.50 ERA in 2 2/3 innings. Zeuch was Memphis’ opening-day starter but was 0-4 with an 11.64 ERA and had given up 39 hits in 19 2/3 innings.

Marmol said he hadn’t decided between Jordan Hicks or Dakota Hudson to face Toronto on Tuesday with the other one moved to the Milwaukee series, which begins on Thursday at Busch Stadium. Both Hicks and Hudson would be on at least four days’ rest on Tuesday after Miles Mikolas opens the Toronto two-game series on Monday.

Carpenter cut by Rangers

Although former Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter was hitting .275 with six homers and an OPS of .991 at Round Rock, the Texas Rangers’ Class AAA farm team, he was released by the Rangers when Carpenter, 36, learned they had no intention to bring him up.

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