Sometimes it is the hitters who provide all the relief necessary.
What Tyler O’Neill tied and Dylan Carlson broke, Albert Pujols finished with such a flourish that he not only put the Cardinals further ahead in the standings, he put himself closer to history. Before Pujols hit his second home run of the game, his 10th of the season, and his 689th of his career, two outfielders mired in slumps animated the Cardinals for a comeback victory Sunday at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals hit four home runs – a big one from O’Neill, a bigger one from Carlson, and none louder than Pujols’ second – to upend the Brewers, 6-3, in a swift 2 hour, 17 minute game.
O’Neill, searching all season for either health or his swing, tied the game with a solo homer in the sixth inning. Carlson, his playing time leaking as he looks to reclaim a swing lost this month, broke the tie with a solo homer in the eighth inning. As the ball carried over the right-field wall, Carlson carried the bat nearly all the way to first base and spiked it a stride short of the base.
As his game-breaking homer cleared the wall in left-center field and kept going, Pujols barely took two steps before dropping his bat.
After hitting his second homer of the day, Pujols signaled to the Cardinals’ dugout and stretched his hands across his chest, as if they were highlighting the name of the team and those birds perched on the bat. Pujols’ two-homer game gave him 65 for his career, trying him with Hall of Famer Willie Mays for the fifth-most all time. It was his first multi-homer game at Busch Stadium since June 2011. He also has 10 homers for the season, giving him 21 years with at least double-digit homers.
His first homer of the day cleaved the Brewers’ lead in half.
His second homer travelled 443 feet – his longest of the season.
The late flurry of homers made a winner of starter Miles Mikolas. He pitched eight strong innings, allowing only two runs on an early homer. Mikolas struck out six and did not complicate any of his innings with a walk. The Brewers got four hits against the right-hander. One was an infield single, and another was promptly erased by a double play.
A day after debatable late-game moves – from pinch-hitting Pujols to playing Corey Dickerson in right field, to needing Giovanny Gallegos to hold a game – all of the drama was drained from the ninth inning by Pujols’ three-run shot. Ryan Helsley, closer, allowed a solo homer in the ninth, but that’s as close as the Brewers got.
The series win maintains the Cardinals’ 1 ½-game lead in the NL Central.
Struggling O’Neill launches game-tying homer
O’Neill’s seventh home run of this season shared a few things in common with his seventh homer of last season – same opponent, both solo shots – and yet could not have been more different.
During his breakout 2021 season, on his way to a career-high 34 homers, O’Neill hit his seventh home run of the season against Milwaukee in a loss when his homer was the only run the Cardinals scored. That homer came in the Cardinals’ 37th game of the season and in O’Neill’s 91st plate appearance.
This year’s seventh homer came in Game No. 114.
He had gone 265 plate appearances before it.
But this one was not alone, nor did it come in a loss.
With one out in the sixth inning, and lefty Aaron Ashby pushing toward six innings and possibly improving his 2-10 record, O’Neill zapped that notion. He drilled a 1-1 pitch 420 feet to center field and knotted the game, 2-2. The home run was O’Neill’s first in nine games and only his second of the month.
Pujols cuts lead in half, strides closer to Musial
Of all the milestones on the horizon for Pujols – including a 700th home run maybe out there in the distance – one gets even closer to home.
Taking his standard start against a left-handed pitcher, Pujols drilled a leadoff home run to open the second inning. Pujols’ 688th home run clanged off the upper deck, some 392 feet away from home plate. It cut the Brewers’ two-run lead in half and moved Pujols another 360 feet nearer one of Stan Musial’s signature career numbers.
The all-time leader in total bases, Hank Aaron, has lapped the field with 6,856, more than 700 more than the second-most in major-league history. That number, 6,134, belongs to Musial. When he retired, one of the host of National League and major-league records he held was the total base record for a career. Pujols is within a few swings of surpassing that. Pujols’ first home run Sunday afternoon – his ninth of the season – upped his total bases to 6,123.
He needed 12 to surpass The Man.
He got four bases closer with his swing in the eighth inning.
Now he needs eight.
Out of Carlson’s reach, Brewers take lead
It was difficult to see who actually got closer to the baseball hit by Brewers outfielder Hunter Renfroe – the fan with a cap in his hand trying to reach over the shrubbery or center fielder Carlson reaching into it with his glove. Either way, Carlson lost his hat, the fan’s hat didn’t come up with the ball.
The shrubbery did.
And Milwaukee had the first lead of the game.
In the second inning, after Andrew McCutchen’s infield single, Renfroe connected on a pitch, sending it toward the wall in center field. The ball, Carlson, and the gentlemen from the seats also trying to catch the ball converged near the corner where the grass of the batter’s eye, the stairs beyond the wall, the seats, and a leaping outfielder can meet. Renfroe’s hit cleared Carlson’s glove for a two-run homer and a 2-0 lead.
In his second at-bat, Renfroe struck another pitch in that same direction. Carlson got to the wall to make that catch and keep the one-run ballgame created by Pujols’ homer.
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