LOS ANGELES — In the dugout, as Albert Pujols stepped to the plate one swing shy of career home run No. 700, rookie Juan Yepez positioned himself to be beside Yadier Molina.
“This is it boys,” Molina told his teammates.
“Next pitch — whang!” Yepez recalled Saturday.
In the moments it took Pujols to become only the fourth player in Major League Baseball history to circle the bases for a 700th time, his teammates made sure to soak in the scene along with him. Brendan Donovan, on base when Pujols’ struck for his second homer, waited by home for a hug eventually got. Nolan Arenado agreed that it felt like being a boy again and watching his favorite player growing up hit a homer, though he had a better view.
On deck as Pujols hit Nos. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium on Friday, Paul Goldschmidt said he reminded himself to remember as many details as possible, as he’s tried to do several times this season.
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He will want to tell that story for years to come.
“You talk about my reaction? ‘Hey, remember this moment,’” Goldschmidt said. “I think he’s hit these milestones and it’s like, hey, don’t forget this because we might not ever see it again. I know me, as a teammate, will never see it again. It’s been a blessing. It’s been an honor to be a small part and get to see this. You can play this game for a long time and not ever see it or be a part of it. Take it in. Remember it. As best I can, enjoy it. See the enjoyment in his face. And all of those things so I can remember that as long as possible.”
Hitting after Pujols in the lineup, Goldschmidt asked bench coach Skip Schumaker what he should do if the three-time MVP hit No. 700. Should he return to the dugout? Should he step back from the field? Should he go to the batter’s box? He wasn’t sure what was respectful to the moment and the Dodgers. Eventually he opted for the most obvious option.
Celebrate with his teammates.
Pujols’ two historic homers — he’s the first member of the 700-homer club to join with a multi-homer game — were two of the five the Cardinals’ hit in their 11-0 win. The last one of the game was the first one of a career. Rookie Alec Burleson entered the game as a pinch hitter for Pujols and faced a Dodgers’ position player. He said Saturday he knew exactly what to do.
“I think that’s the only way to pinch-hit for him right there — hit a homer,” Burleson said. “That’s the right way to do it. You don’t ever forget your first big-league home run. You definitely don’t forget when you hit it on a night like last night. … Trying to do the math. We can’t wrap our mind around hitting 700 homers. We can’t imagine that or 2,200 RBIs.”
Burleson joined the team in time to be present for Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina’s 325th start together to set the major-league record. He has his first homer in the same box score Pujols’ has his 700th. And throughout the day Friday, the rookie said he felt a “different” vibe around the team. After No. 699 left the park, Burleson and Paul DeJong talked about whether 700 should come at home. It was a short conversation.
It was like the team had the same sense Molina did.
This is it boys.
“Of course Albert does it with two home runs on Friday night with everyone here watching,” Schumaker said. “A lot of emotions. A lot. A lot for what he’s gone through both on and off the field, what he’s helped me through. To see him do it, to be here with him, and not just watch him stuck at No. 699. I know he said he didn’t care. But we all cared. We cared.
“We got the moment to be a fan.”
Wainwright set for Sunday, Milwaukee in flux
Cardinals coaches and veteran starter Wainwright gathered together in San Diego to discuss, at length, what schedule would best help him shake free from three weeks of a “dead arm” phase. In his previous four starts, Wainwright has pitched five innings three of them and experienced less life on his pitches, less late snap on their movement, and at times just less velocity than expected.
The right-hander suggested after his start in San Diego that he’s never had the issue five consecutive games and that the best route was to pitch through it, to stay active.
The Cardinals brass agreed.
He’ll start with Molina on Sunday in the LA series finale.
“Part of this is trusting him, (and) in the conversation he feels what’s worked in the past,” Marmol said. “And pitching is better than skipping a start or get him one day or two.”
The Cardinals, however, are waiting to set the pitching plans for Milwaukee until after the weekend work. Depending on the standings and availability, Dakota Hudson is a candidate to start one of the two games against the Brewers and get the entire rotation an extra day of rest headed into the final six games of the regular season.