Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: A Sweet, Sentimental Homecoming for Albert Pujols

The Daily Redbird Review …

Albert Pujols’ long-awaited reunion with Cardinals fans in St. Louis, at the stadium did not disappoint. It was sweet, sentimental, and from the heart. Completely sincere. All nostalgia and appreciation without a trace of bitterness over a contract impasse that led to his departure and free-agent signing with the Angels of Los Angeles.

For one beautiful weekend, it was 2011 again … 2006 again … the days and the nights when the Cardinals, led by Pujols, ruled the baseball world.

A special man, in a special baseball town, for a special weekend.

After an extraordinary 11-season run in St. Louis (2001-2011) Pujols produced a final, cherished memory for Cardinals’ fans … and for himself. After giving us a million memories, and a million smiles as one of the Cards’  most iconic players, The Great Pujols came through one more time.

The Best Fans In Baseball were, in fact, the BFIB. And they showed why … again.

FIRST PITCH: On homecoming weekend  the Cardinals won two out of three from the visiting Angels and head into Monday’s off day with a 40-37 record that has them two games behind the first-place Cubs.

Milwaukee is in second place, 1 and ½ games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central. With two games to go (vs. Oakland) on a nine-game home stand the Cardinals went 4-3 against the Marlins and Angels.

HAPPY TALK: The Cardinals are 12-9 in June, and have gone 9-5 after entering an extended stretch of soft schedule. And to be only two games out of first … hey, it could be a lot worse. And the Cardinals are 3-0-1 in their last four series.

GROUCHY TALK: I’m sorry, but are we supposed to organize a celebratory cavalcade because the Cardinals are three games above .500 for the month and have cranked out nine wins in 14 games against three losing teams that have a combined 106-127 record?  The Cardinals are 4-8-2 in their last 14 series.

Happy … grouchy … depends on how you want to look at it.

BASEBALL HERO: Welcome home, Mr. Pujols. In three games  Mang  had more standing ovations than runs scored (13) by the Cardinals. It was a wonderful display of love, respect and longing by Cardinals fans. It was inspirational to watch this incredible reunion between a great player and person and the best baseball town in America.

NOTEWORTHY QUOTE:  “Certainly, we’d rather win all of them,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said after Sunday’s win, which gave the Halos a 1-2 weekend at Busch.  “But this was one of the most tremendous things I’ve seen in baseball in terms of the way (Pujols) was treated. St. Louis fans, and I played in St. Louis a lot, I’ve always known how great the fans are. This was really special. It was one of the most special things I’ve seen in my 25 years.”

NOTEWORTHY QUOTE II: Pujols said the highlight of his weekend reunion was the curtain call he received from the Cards’ faithful after rocking the solo homer in the seventh inning Saturday.

“That moment right there said it,” Pujols said. “That moment brought me to tears.”

NOTEWORTHY QUOTE III:   MLB’s best player, Angels’ center fielder Mike Trout, had this reaction to the Pujols love-fest at Busch Stadium during Friday night’s series-opening game that set the tone for the weekend.  “It was cool. It was special. It was fun to be a part of. The video tribute was awesome. (Outfielder) Kole Calhoun and I were sure to be out there when he was stretching because we knew it would be a pretty cool ovation. It was. He’s done a lot for St. Louis. I was looking at his numbers. If he retired after 11 years here he’d still be in the Hall of Fame. It’s pretty remarkable. It’s a great time for his family and obviously him to be here.”

BLAME GAME: The Cardinals had a chance to sweep the series by winning Sunday but the offense barely squeaked through the first eight innings, scoring no runs with only five hits. The home team was one out away from being shut out for the sixth time in 2019 when Jose Martinez ignited a late rally with a solo homer. The Cardinals made it interesting but ultimately succumbed 6-4.

ONE STAT SAYS IT ALL: In the three-game series with the Angels, players batting ninth for the Cardinals went 5 for 11 with an RBI. The Cards’ top three lineup spots combined to go 4 for 36, a .111 average, against the Angels. With no RBIs.

Repeat: the ninth batting spot went 5-for-11 and an RBI.

The top three lineup spots, 4 for 36, no RBIs.

In case you’re wondering the five hits — one apiece — from the No. 9 spot came from pitchers Miles Mikolas and Michael Wacha and pinch-hitters Dexter Fowler, Tommy Edman and Yairo Munoz.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Marcell Ozuna powered the Cardinals’ two wins over the Angels by homering twice, driving in five runs, and scoring three times in his team’s Friday-Saturday victories. Ozuna had a quiet Sunday night, but that doesn’t detract from his overall hitting performance in 2019. Ozuna is tied for seventh in the NL with 20 homers, and is tied for third with 62 RBIs. And he’s been money with runners in scoring position.

  • BFIB, thank you for your grace and class and doing our city proud.
  • In the last eight games, Cardinals’ starting pitchers have a 2.23 over 48.1 innings and have allowed only three home runs to 189 batters faced over that time.
  • Jose Martinez is having a productive homestand; in 20 plate appearances against the Marlins and Angels he batted .389 with a .450 OBP and .556 slug.
  • More Tommy Edman, please.
  • Yadier Molina went 4 for 11 and did a splendid job of taking charge of the Pujols’ ovations during Pujols Weekend at Busch.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Leadoff man Matt Carpenter went 2 for 12 against the Angels with three strikeouts and three walks. This season, when he bats No. 1 in the lineup, Carpenter has a .208 average with a .322 onbase percentage.

  • Pauly DeJong went 0 for 13 in the weekend series.
  • Paul Goldschmidt went 2 for 11 against the Angels.
  • Harrison Bader has gone 1 for 29 since June 14.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: Manager Mike Shildt was happy — as always — to heap praise on his team following a loss.

“You talk about a fighting team, if anybody is ever going to question the heart of this team, look at that,” Shildt said of the ninth-inning rally.

Sigh.

Players have an obligation to compete hard, fight hard, and put everything they have into each game.

That’s a standard job requirement.

What about the first eight innings? Those innings counted, right? So why didn’t the team put up a more spirited fight through the first eight? What about another short start by a Cardinals’ starting pitcher? And a bullpen allowing the Angels to expand a 2-0 lead to 6-0?

GOOD MOVE,  SHILDTY:  Flawed post-game messaging aside, he’s 81-65 as the St. Louis manager.  Strategically — and with his emphasis on base-running and defense — Shildt has improved the team … even with problematic roster construction by the front office.

BREATHLESS: Unbelievable double play started by by Cardinals’ second baseman Kolten Wong in Sunday’s win. It doesn’t get any better than that. … and big ups to Dakota Hudson had another outstanding start on Saturday, allowing only one run, the Pujols’ homer, while crafting his eighth consecutive quality start. In 10 starts since May 2, Hudson has nine quality starts, a 2.48 ERA and a ground-ball rate of 64.4 percent. He is, without question, the Cardinals’ No. 1 starter.

A BIG DEAL  IN  LOS ANGELES? NOT SO MUCH: The Pujols-STL-Homecoming wrap-up story appeared on the fifth page of Monday’s Los Angeles Times sports section.

ON DECK: Off day today. Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright are scheduled to start the Tuesday-Wednesday games vs. Oakland at Busch Stadium.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie