Rejuvenated Pujols delivers winning hit 

Dodgers remain one game out of first place after Giants escape vs. SD

September 22nd, 2021

DENVER -- Albert Pujols stepped on the first base bag and quickly looked into the visiting dugout. He followed by shaking his hands and patting his head, two of the Dodgers’ team celebrations this season.

Pujols, who was unceremoniously let go by the Angels back in May, has shown a thrill and excitement that seemed to be lacking over his last few seasons in Anaheim. A new beginning in Los Angeles, and playing in a pennant race, has rejuvenated the future first-ballot Hall of Famer.

That was all on full display on Tuesday, as Pujols continued to impact the Dodgers, delivering a clutch pinch-hit RBI single in the 10th inning to lead the Dodgers to a 5-4 win over the Rockies at Coors Field.

The Dodgers were a half-game behind the Giants for 1st place after the clutch win for a brief period after the game, but the Giants escaped with a dramatic win of their own, keeping L.A. one game back in this incredible race.

“Being in this ballclub, it’s just been so much fun over the last three-and-a-half months,” Pujols said. “I’ve been having fun, enjoying being around young players that really want to learn and being around veteran guys that know how to win. It’s a great win.”

Left-hander Julio Urías got the start for the Dodgers, which has often resulted in positive things for Los Angeles. The team is now 24-6 when he starts. This start, however, was one of the least encouraging ones of the season by the young Mexican left-hander.

In his last start against the D-backs, Urías’ velocity was down nearly two miles per hour on all three of his pitches. The Dodgers attributed the decrease in velocity to a problem in his mechanics and not to any physical issues.

On Tuesday, however, Urías’ velocity was way down again, which could be concerning for the Dodgers moving forward. His four-seam fastball averaged 92.4 mph, down from his 94.1 mph season average. His curveball also saw a 1.7 mph decrease from its season average. The changeup was down 2.4 mph. Urías has now pitched 174 1/3 innings this season, nearly triple of his previous career-high (79 2/3).

Due to the lack of velocity, Urías wasn’t as effective as he’s been most of the season. The Rockies only swung and missed on three of his four-seam fastballs and recorded nine hard-hit balls off the Dodgers’ left-hander. Urías allowed four runs over six innings, the most runs allowed in a start since July 16 against the Rockies.

Urías said he doesn’t know exactly why the velocity has dipped recently, but reiterated that he feels healthy despite the heavy workload this season.

“I honestly feel good,” Urías said in Spanish. “I feel strong. At the end of the game, I don’t feel tired or anything and I think that’s a good sign.”

Even with Urías not being at his best, the Dodgers were still able to find a way to get a much-needed win. They fell behind early, but quickly responded with a two-run fifth inning, highlighted by Urías collecting his ninth RBI of the season on just 11 hits.

In the sixth, Max Muncy doubled in a run and came around to score on a Will Smith sacrifice fly, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. The Rockies responded with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning.

The Dodgers’ bullpen, however, did their job once again. Blake Treinen was able to escape from a seventh-inning jam. Kenley Jansen did the same in the ninth. Then Alex Vesia secured the save in the 10th inning.

All of that set the stage for Pujols, who sent an 0-1 Jhoulys Chacín slider right back up the middle to send the visiting dugout into a frenzy. Pujols, who has seen his role decrease as the Dodgers have gotten healthier, has been even better than expected.

He has crushed left-handed pitching and has been a mentor to a lot of young players. Even future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer asked to take a photo with Pujols, who he grew up watching in St. Louis.

The Dodgers have also given Pujols an opportunity to win another championship. That’s something Pujols said he doesn’t take for granted. His emotions on Tuesday proved just that.

“I know that he loves being a Dodger, he loves his teammates,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “When he does get those spots and he feels like he’s contributing, which he always is, just makes him feel much better.”