Pujols homers in return to St. Louis, Dodgers down Cards 7-2

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Los Angeles Dodgers’ Albert Pujols tips his tap to cheering fans as he steps up to bat during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Albert Pujols rewarded an adoring crowd by hitting a home run in his return to Busch Stadium, sending the Los Angeles Dodgers toward a 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.

Justin Turner homered twice and Will Smith also homered for the playoff-contending Dodgers, who won for the sixth time in eight games. St. Louis has lost four in a row.

A star slugger who led the Cardinals to a pair of World Series championships, the 41-year-old Pujols made his second appearance at Busch Stadium after playing for St. Louis from 2001-2011.

Pujols drew a 40-second standing ovation when his name was announced prior to a first-inning at-bat, with catcher and longtime teammate Yadier Molina stepping in front of the plate to prolong the cheer. They had a short embrace before Pujols stepped in.

Pujols promptly drilled the fourth pitch from J.A. Happ on a line over the wall in left. It was his 679th career home run and 17th of the season.

“It’s one of those things that you hope could happen,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “But the likelihood is very improbable. Getting a standing ovation and then homering in that first at-bat. Storybook. I’m a firm believer that the game honors you. The way Albert’s played the game for so long, the right way, that’s the way it was supposed to go.”

Pujols tried to downplay the moment.

“When it happens, you just let it happen,” he said. “It’s part of the game. Embrace the moment. But try not to get caught up too much.”

His teammates had no problem enjoying the special moment.

“It was pretty surreal,” Turner said. “Pretty cool for everyone in the stadium — not just Albert. Every time he hits a homer, you’re watching history.”

The 10-time All-Star drew a similar fan reaction when he returned to St. Louis with the Los Angels Angels for the first time in 2019 He was given a standing ovation in all 12 plate appearances that series including, a one-minute tribute in his first trip to the plate. He also homered in the first game of that series.

Pujols, who did not play in the series opener Monday night, went 1 for 4. The first baseman signed a 10-year deal with the Angels after the 2011 season, then joined the Dodgers last May.

Alex Vesia (3-1) picked up the win for Los Angeles, which used nine pitchers. He struck out the only man he faced to end the third inning. Corey Knebel started and went one inning as the opener.

Turner recorded the 12th multihomer game of his career and second of the season.

“It was nice to hit some balls hard,” Turner said. “I’ve been putting in some work. It’s nice to get a result.”

Happ (8-8) allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings.

Turner homered in fifth inning to push the lead to 4-2. Smith, who went 4 for 4, added his 23rd home run in the sixth. Turner pushed the lead to a 7-2 with a two-run shot in the ninth and 23rd of the year.

Tyler O’Neill had three hits for St. Louis, which came into play chasing San Diego for the second NL wild-card spot.

“We’ve got to play better ball,” O’Neill said. “Got to be more complete. We’ve got to piece some stuff together.”

Dodgers leadoff man Trea Turner extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a double in the third inning. His career-best streak was a 16-game run in 2020 with Washington.

WAINWRIGHT’S RETURN?

Longtime Cardinals star pitcher Adam Wainwright indicated in a video on his Big League Impact charity website that he plans to return next season. In the video, he posed the question of whether to play or not to play to all of his six family members. They all said he should play.

“Six for six, I guess we should play,” Wainwright says.

The Cardinals have said they would welcome the 40-year back next year should he choose to pitch one more season.

MOVING ON UP

Los Angeles recalled OF Steven Souza Jr. from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday. He doubled in a run in the fourth inning. Souza hit .160 with one homer and two RBIs in 13 games earlier this season with the Dodgers. INF/OF Zach McKinstry was optioned returned to Oklahoma City,

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw allowed two runs on four hits over three innings in a rehab start at Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. He struck out three and did not walk a batter. If he comes out of the effort sound, he could likely rejoin the Dodgers this weekend or early next week. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has been out since July 3 with forearm inflammation.

Cardinals: INF Paul Goldschmidt was given a day of rest. He had three of the Cardinals’ six hits in a 5-1 loss on Monday.

UP NEXT

RHP Adam Wainwright (14-7, 2.91 ERA) will start for the Cardinals in the third game of the four-game series, He has pitched at least six innings in his last 12 regular season starts against the Dodgers, who have yet to announce a starter.

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