Albert Pujols vs. Cardinals in NL wild-card game is beautiful October playoff drama


Albert Pujols is aware of methods to play October hero.

The Cooperstown-bound slugger was the MVP of the traditional 2004 NLCS, when he hit 4 homers to go along with 9 RBIs, a .500 common and a 1.563 OPS as his Cardinals beat the Astros in seven video games. The subsequent 12 months, he smashed an epic game-winning dwelling run off Brad Lidge in Recreation 5 of the NLCS that’s in all probability nonetheless rattling round above the prepare tracks in Houston’s ballpark. He has a .968 OPS in 16 profession World Collection video games — he hit three homers in a kind of contests — and helped the Cardinals win two titles. 

MORE: Sporting News’ postseason predictions

So, yeah. The large stage is nothing new.

This time, although, it’s totally different. When Pujols was heroic for the Cardinals, it’s as a result of he was by some means assembly the loopy, lofty expectations he’d set throughout his time with the membership. He was a future Corridor of Famer racking up immortality factors, additional strains on his plaque. 

However as Pujols, now with the Dodgers after he was waived by the Angels close to the tip of his 10-year, $240-million contract, prepares for the 2021 NL wild-card recreation, issues are totally different. If he rises to the second, it is going to be about exceeding low expectations, not assembly lofty ones. He’s been productive with the Dodgers — 12 homers, .759 OPS in 204 PAs — however at 41 years previous, he’s a shadow of his former self on the plate. If he does begin at first base within the wild-card recreation, it is going to solely be as a result of Max Muncy, the traditional starer, is out with an elbow harm. 

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And even so, giving Pujols the beginning isn’t a certainty. He’s within the combine with two others, Cody Bellinger and Matt Beaty. That’s not precisely stiff competitors. Bellinger is a former MVP, in fact, however he’s removed from 100% and batting simply .165 on the season. The Dodgers would in all probability choose to maintain his glove in heart subject. Beaty may get the nod, however he’s had solely 82 PAs within the second half, with a .225 common and .639 OPS, and he’s began precisely one recreation at first base prior to now two months. He’s, although, a left-handed hitter and LA’s opponent is throwing a righty.

“We have got some choices, however I am going to consider it for an additional 24 hours,” Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts mentioned throughout Tuesday’s assembly with reporters. “If a man begins a recreation, he might not end the sport there, attempting to maintain some optionality with the lineup, with the protection, all that stuff.”

If Roberts has any sense of drama and historical past and wonderment, he’ll give Pujols the beginning as a result of the Dodgers’ opponent, in fact, is the Cardinals. 

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Pujols’ Cardinals. Yeah, they’re nonetheless his workforce. These are nonetheless his followers. He’ll put on that cap within the Corridor of Fame. And the Cardinals are throwing veteran Adam Wainwright within the wild-card recreation. I imply, c’mon. These two had been teammates for seven years in St. Louis.

“Albert is a superb pal, however proper now we’re combating,” Wainwright mentioned Tuesday, in typical Wainwright trend. “We’ll make up afterwards. However we’re combating proper now.”

The Cardinals (11 World Collection titles) and Dodgers (seven titles) are two of baseball’s most storied franchises, so this recreation isn’t missing for curiosity. However Pujols vs. Wainwright and the Cardinals in a winner-take-all wild-card contest? 

That’s good TV, of us. That’s October drama. This must occur. | Albert Pujols vs. Cardinals in NL wild-card recreation is gorgeous October playoff drama

Aila Slisco

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