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Quick hits: Pujols hits 697th homer to lift Cardinals past Pirates in 9th inning

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PITTSBURGH — The Cardinals played without stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado on Sunday as both were given a rest by manager Oliver Marmol. But they didn't dare play without Albert Pujols.

Shut out on three hits until the ninth, the Cardinals surged for four runs off Pittsburgh reliever Chase De Jong, the go-ahead runs accounted for by Pujols, who drilled the 697th homer of his career, fourth most all-time. The Cardinals held on for a 4-3 victory. 

Tommy Edman and Corey Dickerson doubled to open the ninth inning and break up the shutout. Pujols, who had been 0 for 3 but had hit homer No. 696 the night before, jumped on 2-0 De Jong fastball and walloped it to deep right center to put the Cardinals ahead for the first time all day.

They hadn't led until the ninth inning the night before either in a comeback win. Tyler O'Neill tacked on a home run, his 14th, to withstand a homer by Greg Allen off Ryan Helsley in the home half of the ninth.

Pujols' 18th homer of the season and 14th in the past two months, moved him one home run ahead of Alex Rodriguez, whom Pujols had tied on Saturday night. 

Until the ninth, the Cardinals had been limited to three singles, one of them by rookie designated hitter Alec Burleson, who singled in the eighth off Duane Underwood Jr. for his first major league hit in his ninth at-bat.

For most of the day, Lars Nootbaar was the best Cardinals player on the field. He snapped a 0-for-20 skid with a single and walked twice. He also made back-to-back stellar catches in right field to prevent further damage in the eighth inning.

With the Steelers on television, only 10,398 showed up at PNC Park to witness the proceedings.

Quintana nicked by former teammates

Left-hander Jose Quintana, traded by the Pirates to the Cardinals on Aug. 1, was touched for the game’s first run in the third inning. Greg Allen singled to right and stole second as catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ball.

Allen stopped at third on Jason Delay’s single to right and scored on a force-out hit into by Oneil Cruz. Cruz stole second as Bryan Reynolds struck out, but Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton deemed strike three to be a tad inside and was ejected for expressing that sentiment.

Keller snuffs Cardinals

For four innings, right-hander Mitch Keller allowed just one base runner,  Nootbaar’s single off the foot of second baseman Rololfo Castro in the second. But in the fifth, he walked both Nootbaar and Nolan Gorman. Molina grounded sharply to the left of second baseman Castro, who whirled and fired to shortstop Cruz, who flashed across the second-base bag and fired to first easily to catch Molina to end the inning.

Quintana then pitched out of trouble in the Pittsburgh fifth, abetted by strong defense from shortstop Edman and first baseman Pujols on the same play.

Kevin Newman singled to left and was sacrificed by Allen. Delay hit a grounder to short, where Edman may have been obscured by Newman before knocking the ball down, gathering it quickly and throwing a bit off-line to Pujols, who corralled the short hop. Quintana then made Cruz his third strikeout.

Edman singled to left for the Cardinals’ second hit with two out in the sixth. But third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes snagged Corey Dickerson’s grounder.

Quintana has club record 

Quintana, though he had given up just one run and had tossed but 82 pitches, was replaced with two out in the sixth by right-hander Jordan Hicks after Hayes had sent a liner just over Quintana’s head and into center field. Hicks retired right-handed-batting Michael Chavis on a fly to center.

Quintana continued his streak of allowing two earned runs or fewer to eight games, which is a club record (since 1912) for a pitcher making his first eight starts with the team. In two of those games, however, he didn't pitch five innings. 

Suwinski homers to double Pirates' lead 

Rookie Jack Suwinski banged his 16th homer, a drive to right-center, off Hicks to push the Pirates ahead 2-0 in the seventh. Suwinski is tied with Atlanta's Michael Harris II for home runs by a National League rookie. Heading to the eighth, Keller, who had thrown 91 pitches, gave way to Duane Underwood Jr.

Keller had thrown 100 or more in his two previous starts — against Milwaukee and the New York Mets. 

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

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