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Quick hits: Pujols clouts 696th homer to tie for fourth all-time as Cardinals rally to win

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Cardinals Pirates Baseball

The Cardinals' Paul Goldschmidt scores ahead of a tag by Pirates catcher Tyler Heineman on a double by Nolan Arenado in the ninth inning in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

PITTSBURGH — Albert Pujols continued his trek toward to 700 home runs Saturday night but he stopped by Alex Rodriguez’s house first.

The Cardinals’ first baseman ripped his 696th career homer, a first-pitch, 418-foot rocket to left field in the sixth inning to spark a rally which eventually led to a 7-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The drive off a slider from Pittsburgh right-hander JT Brubaker enabled Pujols to catch former American League slugger Rodriguez for fourth place on the most majestic of baseball’s offensive lists.

Barry Bonds had 762 home runs. Henry Aaron had 755. Babe Ruth had 714. Pujols has 22 games to hit four.

His 17th home run of the season erased a 3-1 Pittsburgh lead. An eighth-inning single, his third hit of the game, erased another Pittsburgh lead built after Pirates star rookie Oneil Cruz homered off JoJo Romero in the seventh.

Cruz has hit for the cycle in the first two games of this series.

The Cardinals took their first and only lead in the ninth when Molina singled and Paul DeJong, who had been nothing for 26, blooped a single to right, sending pinch runner Lars Nootbaar to third.

The next two ground balls did not plate a run but designated hitter Paul Goldschmidt barely fouled off two full-count pitches before drawing a walk. Nolan Arenado, who had been hitless in four at-bats, lined a bases-loaded double off Wil Crowe to send home three runners and the Cardinals’ modest losing streak had ended at two.

Fifty-five game-tying HRs for No. 5

Pujols’ game-tying homer was the 55th of his career, equaling Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre for 10th place on that career list. On another list, Pujols made Brubaker his 452nd home run victim, extending his career lead in that category.

After Pujols crossed the plate, the first man he met was the on-deck hitter, Molina, Pujols’ longtime teammate and friend. They embraced and then Pujols ducked into the dugout to accept more congratulations but, respectful of the Pirates, he did not answer the plea for a curtain call by the fans behind the Cardinals’ dugout.

For his career, Pujols has 33 homers at PNC Park, most by any visiting player and he is 14th on the list for anyone who has played there in 22 seasons —visitors or Pirates.

After a bumpy beginning, Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty worked a scoreless third, fourth and fifth innings in a no-decision in which he threw 87 pitches over five innings. Flaherty allowed two homers, walked four and did not strike out a batter for only the second time in his 95 career starts. On June 8, 2019, he failed to fan anybody over 3 2/3 innings in a game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

Pirates rock Flaherty for two homers in two innings

After an impressive outing this past Monday in which he gave up just one run in five innings, Flaherty, making his second big-league appearance since coming off the 60-day injured list, was cuffed for home runs in each of the first two innings.

Flaherty induced a double play started by second baseman Nolan Gorman in the first inning after giving up a leadoff hit to Cruz, who has five hits in the first two games of the series.

But Flaherty left a 92 mile an hour fastball over the plate to Rodolfo Castro, who hit his seventh homer to deep right center.

The Cardinals wasted a two-out double in the second by Pujols, who had been nothing for 12. Molina walked but DeJong, two for 48, grounded into a forceout.

Flaherty walked Ke’Bryan Hayes to open the Pittsburgh second and Jack Suwinski drilled his 16th homer to right off a 93.4 mph fastball.

The Pirates threatened further when Cal Mitchell doubled after a walk to Michael Chavis.

But Tyler Heineman lined to first baseman Pujols and Flaherty popped off the mound for Cruz’s bouncer and threw home to get Chavis. Flaherty escaped still down 3-0 by retiring Bryan Reynolds on a fly to center.

The Pirates kept attacking but came up empty in the third, helped by a diving play on Castro by Pujols. Flaherty issued his third walk and allowed a two-out single to Suwinski before Chavez flied to right.

Four innings, 78 pitches

Flaherty blanked the Pirates again in the fourth, with the help of right fielder Brendan Donovan, who threw out former Cardinals minor league catcher Heineman, trying to take second on a hit to right.

Donovan stars on offense, too

Donovan cut into the Pirates’ lead with his fourth homer with one out in the fifth after center fielder Reynolds had made a sliding catch on DeJong.

Corey Dickerson singled for his second hit in the fifth. He moved up on Goldschmidt’s groundout but Arenado left another runner, flying to right. The Cardinals were nothing for five with runners in scoring position at that point.

Helsley allows first earned run on road

Closer Ryan Helsley gained the save but allowed a run in the ninth, the first earned run he had allowed in 23 road innings this season.

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

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