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Quick Hits: Adam Wainwright labors in Cardinals' home finale as Albert Pujols exits in style

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Adam Wainwright said that normally he does not participate in pre-game ceremonies on days that he is pitching but he had a speaking part in the one honoring retiring Cardinals legends Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina Sunday at Busch Stadium. At one point in his effusive praise of both, Wainwright noted the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were watching from the dugout, must be “frothing” to get after him.

And they did. Wainwright, making his final regular-season start and, perhaps, final start this season, was touched for six runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 7-5 Pittsburgh win, which snapped Wainwright’s string of victories at 10 against the Pirates since 2016. He finished his regular season at 11-12.

Wainwright, Molina and Pujols all were lifted from the game with Wainwright on the mound and two outs in the Pittsburgh fifth. In so doing, Pujols was allowed to finish his Busch Stadium regular-season career with a home run, his 702nd of his career and 23rd of the season. That third-inning drive to deepest center field tied Babe Ruth for second place on the career runs batted in list at 2,214 after Pujols had knocked in two runs in the first with a two-run double.

Pujols comes through again on ‘Buddy Walk’ Day

Pujols, who has a daughter with Down Syndrome, historically had performed well on ‘Buddy Walk’ Day, once hitting three homers in one of those Sunday games here during his first tour with the Cardinals. .

It was ‘Buddy Walk Day’ at Busch Stadium Sunday and Pujols didn’t disappoint following the impressive pre-game ceremony. The Pirates committed two misplays in the first inning—one a fielding error and another on a lost ball in the sun, giving Alec Burleson a double.

That brought to the plate Pujols, playing first base and batting third just like the old days. Pitcher Roansy Contreras fell behind 3-0 and the sellout crowd feared a walk.

But Pujols finished the at-bat by ripping a two-run double to left. Fittingly, Pujols, after tagging up and advancing on Nolan Arenado’s fly ball, scored on a sacrifice fly by Molina.

Pujols wasn’t done.

Feasting on an 0-1 Contreras fastball at 92.9 mph, Pujols lined  No. 702 into the center field greenery in the third and tied the game at 4-4.  besides catching Ruth. Only Henry Aaron is ahead of them at 2,297 RBIs.

According to Post-Dispatch research, Pujols has either tied or put his team ahead with eight of his past 10 homers.

Wainwright encounters turbulence

Wainwright, who has not said he was retiring, ran into trouble in the Pirates’ second. A leadoff walk to Jack Suwinski was his first mistake. Cal Mitchell, 11 for his last 19 at that point against the Cardinals, blooped a one-out single to left.

Ben Gamel then hopped a 3-1 Wainwright sinker and blasted it to the back of the Cardinals’ bullpen in right and the game was even at 3-3.  As has been the case in his recent starts, Wainwright’s velocity was down a couple of miles from what it normally is.

The Pirates then went ahead 4-3 in the third, which Cruz led off with a single. Cruz stole second, went to third on an infield out and scored as Cardinals left fielder Corey Dickerson made a sliding catch of Miguel Andujar’s liner.

DeJong gets best of De Jong

In a battle of unrelated opponents, Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, whose latest skid had been nothing for 12, doubled to left against Pirates reliever Chase De Jong in the fourth to restore the lead to the Cardinals at 5-4. Dylan Carlson, hitting left-handed, had opened the inning with a double to right.

Wainwright leaves — and so do Molina, Pujols

In his final regular-season outing, Wainwright was lifted after 4 2/3 innings. He had fallen behind 6-5 and he didn’t leave alone. After manager Oliver Marmol took the ball from Wainwright, he hugged Wainwright, Molina and Pujols and all the veteran players walked off the field together.

Molina and Pujols will never play another regular-season game here. For the 41-year-old Wainwright, it is uncertain, given his last month in which he has given up 44 hits and 23 earned runs while walking 12 in 28 2/3 innings.

Suwinski’s double to right center broke a 5-5 tie after Andujar’s tapper hat scored Ji Hwan Bae, who had singled, stolen second and moved up on Cruz’s single. The Cardinals appealed the safe call on Bae’s steal but were not upheld.

Reynolds hikes Pirates' lead 

Switch-hitting center fielder Bryan Reynolds clouted his 27th homer of the season off left-hander Zack Thompson in the seventh to raise the Pirates’ lead to 7-5 after Thompson had retired the first six men to face him.

The sellout crowd count of 46,680 swelled the season attendance mark to 3,320,551.

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Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Related to this story

On Sunday, the unofficial theme of the day was — home. For a man from Puerto Rico and a man from the Dominican Republic, this city in the middle of America is also home. They are eternally welcomed here and forever revered here. Crouched behind home or stoically standing beside it, Molina and Pujols took up residence in St. Louis, where they called home for a combined 31 seasons. Thirty-one. So many home runs and runs crossing home.

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