Pujols delivers game-winning homer in lone at-bat to raise cards

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Pujols delivers game-winning homer in lone at-bat to raise cards

The swing produced the only runs of the game as the Cardinals completed the series sweep over the Cubs.

ST. LOUIS — The cheers began as soon as Albert Pujols walked to the on-deck circle, ready to pinch hit for Lars Nootbaar in the eighth inning of a scoreless game Sunday at Busch Stadium.

A double play by Tommy Edman brought Pujols to the plate with first base open for the final plate appearance against the Cubs in his storied career.

Perhaps caught up in the drama of the moment, Cubs manager David Ross elected to have left-hander Brandon Hughes pitch to Pujols — and now both of them will one day be able to tell their grandchildren what it was like to watch Pujols hit the 695th homer of his career.

Pujols unloaded on an 0-1 pitch, leaving him just one home run away from tying Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the all-time hit list and five away from joining the 700 club. The swing produced the only runs of the game as the Cardinals completed the series sweep over the Cubs.

“Obviously it’s pretty special, but what’s really special is that we came home with a win,” Pujols said.

Pujols said he heard radio announcer Rick Horton, as he was getting ready for his at-bat in the bullpen, mention how special it would be if Pujols homered in his last at-bat against the Cubs.

“It happened,” Pujols said. “That’s why, if you look, I was smiling the whole way when I hit first base until I hit home plate. It was the last thing planned in my mind. I just couldn’t believe it happened.

“To do it like that in front of our fans was pretty special.”

As he watched the moment unfold from the Cardinals’ dugout, manager Oli Marmol admitted it was one of those few times he allowed himself to become a fan.

“Just take in the moment, take it all in,” Marmol said.

The win pushed the Cardinals’ record to 24 games over .500 and left them 8½ games ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central with 28 games remaining.

Here’s how the game broke down:

At the plate: Edman’s double gave him at least one extra base hit in his last seven games. His infield single in the third was one of four hits the Cardinals got off Marcus Stroman in seven innings before Hughes was relieved to start the eighth … The home run was Pujols’ 16th of the season and 59th of his career against the Cubs. It was also the seventh pinch-hit homer of his career.

On the hill: The homer gave the win to Miles Mikolas, who allowed just two hits and one walk over eight innings on just 92 pitches. The only hits he allowed were a two-out double in the first and a one-out single in the sixth … Ryan Helsley earned the save and got a game-ending double after a one-out -walk … The Cardinals’ bullpen has not allowed an earned run in their last 24 innings.

Key Statistics: Mikolas lowered his ERA at home to 2.24 this season. He is 6-2 in 13 starts at Busch and the Cardinals have won his last seven starts at home and nine of the last 10 since May 11. On the road, he is 5-8 with a 4.41 ERA.

Notable: Hughes became the record 451st pitcher to allow a career home run to Pujols … The last Cardinal to have an extra base hit in seven straight games was Paul Dejong in 2018 … The win was the 18th in their last 20 games at home for the Cardinals … It was their fourth shutout this season over the Cubs, the most since they also shut them out four times in 1968.

Look ahead: The Cardinals begin a four-game series against the Nationals Busch on Monday with a 3:15 p.m. Jack Flaherty will come off the injured list to make the start.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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