Pujols sets record with homer off 450th pitcher

Cards continue hot August with help of The Machine and O'Neill's 2 homers

August 30th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- The formula has been lather, rinse, repeat for St. Louis during the month of August.

While managers often plead their teams to “flush it” after a poor performance, Cardinals skipper Oliver Marmol has asked his players to do so regardless of the outcome. He urges his team to show up to the stadium every day with a clean slate, and it's starting to pay off.

Coming off an impressive series victory over Atlanta, the Cardinals carried their streaking offense on the road with them to Cincinnati with a 13-4 victory in Monday’s series opener at Great American Ball Park. They improved to 21-6 this month -- one of their finest Augusts in franchise history.

The Cardinals knocked Reds right-hander Chase Anderson out of the game after just 1 1/3 innings, rallying together six runs on six hits in the second inning, punctuated by a Statcast-projected 423-foot home run by center fielder Tyler O’Neill.

The following inning, Albert Pujols -- who is continuing his farewell tour in yet another National League city that he’s stung in years past -- hit career home run No. 694. The blast came off left-hander Ross Detwiler, marking the 450th pitcher Pujols has hit a homer against in his career and breaking a tie with Barry Bonds. The number is astounding since it's more than twice as many pitchers as Ruth homered off in his career. It also marked his 21st long ball at Great American Ball Park and puts him two away from tying Alex Rodriguez for the fourth-most homers all-time.

HRs off different pitchers (career total)

1. Albert Pujols, 450 (694)*
2. Barry Bonds, 449 (762)
3. Alex Rodriguez, 422 (696)
4. Hank Aaron, 310 (755)
5. Babe Ruth, 216 (714)
*Still active

"I got ahead of him and was trying to go to a high fastball. I didn’t get it high enough, and it leaked out over the plate more than I wanted it to,” Detwiler said. “The ball jumps off his bat quite a bit."

O’Neill tallied his second home run of the game, and third in the past two games, in the sixth inning to give St. Louis a 12-4 lead and put the game away early.

“I think all these guys are feeding off of each other right now. And when Albert gets hot, it gives everybody confidence,” Marmol said. “You see it when Nolan [Arenado] and [Paul Goldschmidt] do their thing. It’s just everybody feeds off of each other.”

Pujols (.407, first), Arenado (.371, third), second baseman Brendan Donovan (.368, fourth) and Goldschmidt (.358, fifth) are four of the NL’s top five hitters (with a minimum of 60 plate appearance) during August. Some of their success stems from being able to play with a short memory.

“That’s what we’ve been doing all year long,” Pujols said. “One guy, one day is going to have a big game -- like tonight it was [O’Neill who] carries our ballclub. To be able to help each other out and pick each other up, I think that's what we’ve been doing right before the All-Star break and right after the break … we’re playing great baseball. [It’s] what we were expecting to do all year long, but sometimes it takes a little long to do that.”

Seeing his team play with a short memory is a good sign for the Cards moving forward, according to Marmol. It’s a trait that’s to be expected, however, from a team that has as much battle-tested leadership as the Cardinals have, with more than four decades of big league experience between Pujols and catcher Yadier Molina.

“I tell you, that group isn't thinking about winning [that] last series right now. They’re completely moving on to today,” Marmol said. “I think what allows us to be good is … [we’re] done with a series like that and no one cares in that clubhouse. If we would have lost that series, no one cares in that cubhouse. That’s a really good way to not ride the highs and the lows. It's done. [It’s just] we did our job, or we didn't do our job … and now we have something that we have to accomplish today.”

While a series win versus Atlanta may have garnered more headlines, beating the teams they’re supposed to on paper could turn out being equally as important. The win pushed their NL Central lead to six games, with a chance to put the race to bed in the coming weeks and their next 12 games coming against sub-.500 teams.