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Quick hits: Tyler O’Neill, Albert Pujols power Cardinals through rain to rout of Reds

CINCINNATI — Delayed but not deterred by rain for a second consecutive day, the Cardinals had enough lightning strikes to stay well ahead of Cincinnati’s momentary cloudburst of power — and add a dash of history along the way.

Tyler O’Neill belted two home runs that powered two lengthy rallies for the Cardinals, and Albert Pujols hit his 694th career homer. The Reds hit three home runs in one inning, but that was only enough to chase starter Miles Mikolas from the game, not keep the Cardinals from reclaiming the rout with a 13-4 victory late Monday night at Great American Ball Park.

The Cardinals got their runs mostly in gulps.

Ten Cardinals came to the plate in the second inning and produced six runs. O’Neill’s first homer, a solo shot, was the spark that ignited the inning. The Cardinals went through the lineup in order in the sixth inning to score four more runs and build back their eight-run lead. O’Neill had a two-run homer in the sixth as the Cardinals answered Cincinnati’s lone rally. Pujols was in the middle of both Cardinals’ rallies with a single in the second inning and a walk in the sixth.

Sandwiched in between was another record.

Mikolas could not hold an eight-run lead through the fifth inning to qualify for the win, yielding the mound to Chris Stratton. The right-hander, imported from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline started what finished with 4 2/3 scoreless innings from the Cardinals bullpen. That included two scoreless from rookie Zack Thompson. 

Pujols makes MLB history (again)

The pitch that Pujols hit to set a new major-league record came from the hand of a St. Louis kid.

Ross Detwiler, who was a freshman at Wentzville Holt High when Pujols made his major-league debut and went to Cardinals games a boy, delivered an 0-2 fastball to Pujols in the third inning Monday night. Pujols connected on the 92.8-mph pitch and lofted it toward right field and into the seats at Great American Ball Park.

Pujols’ 694th career home run put him two shy of tying Alex Rodriguez, six away from becoming the fourth member of the 700 club, and one ahead of Bonds for a big-league record.

Detwiler was the 450th different pitcher Pujols has homered against.

On his way to 762 home runs, Bonds hit at least one homer off 449 different pitchers. Pujols, who split his career between the American League and National League, tied the record with his home run this past week off Drew Smyly at Wrigley Field. Facing another lefty, Missouri State alum Detwiler, he set it with his 15th home run of the season.

To put the record in perspective, consider if Pujols only had those 450 home runs off 450 different pitchers. He would still rank ahead of Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Vladimir Guerrero in career homers. They each had 449 career homers.

The home run Monday continued Pujols’ march toward 700, and along the way he’s sure to join other exclusive round-number clubs. The run he scored on the homer Monday was the 1,900th of his career, making the 12th player to do that. (Stan Musial ranks 10th with 1,949 runs.) Pujols’ two RBIs on the swing against Detwiler gave him 2,190 for his career. Only two other players – Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth – have reached and surpassed 2,200 career RBIs.

O’Neill’s resurgence takes flight

Fresh of a weekend that featured his walk-off walk and his game-upending home run, O’Neill continued a power surge to pull alongside his teammates.

Pujols’ homer was his eighth of the month, keeping pace there with teammates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado among the league leaders.

With two homers Monday, O’Neill has five in the past week.

He has nearly doubled his total for the season in that time.

O’Neill began the Cardinals’ binge in the second inning with a solo homer that traveled 423 feet. He was the first of six consecutive Cardinals to reach base. The first four came against Reds starter Chase Anderson and quickly exhausted the right-hander’s pitch count. By the time Anderson was replaced with one out in the second inning, the Cardinals had a three-run lead, two runners on base, and were well on their way to a six-run inning.

Rain, rain won’t go away

The start of the game was delayed by more than an hour and the middle of the game was interrupted by rain, giving the Cardinals three weather delays in 30 hours. The Cardinals and Reds had batting practice canceled on the field due to the threat of showers, and the arrival of those storms, complete with lightning, delayed first pitch Monday by 91 minutes. In the middle of the sixth inning, a 36-minute delayed started – but the hustle of the grounds crew kept it from being much longer. As the Cardinals took the field for the bottom of the sixth, the umps called a delay before the rain had started. The GABP grounds crew had the field covered when the deluge arrived.

Reds chase Mikolas from game

It two three home runs and cutting the lead in half for Cincinnati to steal a win in their loss.

Cardinals starter Mikolas came two outs shy of qualifying for the win when he was unable to complete the fifth inning. He started the frame with an eight-run lead and a bead on his 11th win, but he could not complete a second time through the bottom of Cincinnati’s lineup. Instead of a cruise toward a quality start, Mikolas encountered potholes and his ERA since the All-Star break has hovered around 5.00. By the time manager Oliver Marmol stepped out of the dugout to replace him, the Reds had hit three home runs, scored four runs, and brought a potential sixth run to the plate.

In the claustrophobic confines of Great American Ball Park, games flip fast, and Marmol moved to avoid that happening on Mikolas. The right-hander had also eclipsed 30 pitches and the Cardinals wanted to avoid him reaching 40, or what the club has considered a stress inning in the minors.

The inning started with Reds center fielder T. J. Friedl working an 11 pitch at-bat against Mikolas and drilled that 11th pitch to left field for a homer and the Reds’ first run.

Home runs by Stuart Fairchild and Chuckie Robinson followed. The No. 9 hitter in the Reds’ order and latest major-leaguer not to use batting gloves, Robinson lofted a full-count pitch from Mikolas for a two-run homer. That cleaved the Cardinals’ lead in half and brought the top of the order around to face Mikolas for a third time.

The right-hander had dominated through four innings. He got nine outs from the first nine Reds he faced. A single in the second was erased on by a double play, and through four innings he had allowed only two hits. The Reds muddied that clean line with the four runs on four hits and a walk against him in the fifth inning. A single by leadoff hitter Jonathan India came on Mikolas 80th pitch – and it was his last.

Derrick Goold

@dgoold on Twitter

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