‘He might be old, but he can still hit’ Veterans Pujols, Wainwright propel Cardinals past Blue Jays

St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols celebrates after hitting a sacrifice fly to score Tommy...
St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols celebrates after hitting a sacrifice fly to score Tommy Edman for the winning run during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres Tuesday, May 31, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Jeff Roberson | AP)
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 1:42 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - With fellow All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado unable to participate in the Cardinals’ mid-week road trip to Toronto to due Canadian travel restrictions surrounding COVID-19 vaccine mandates, St. Louis counted on 42-year-old Albert Pujols to pick up the slack.

Turning back the clock to his prime playing days, Pujols manned first base and batted clean-up in the Cardinals’ batting order for both games of the series. Wednesday, the team needed a jolt after dropping the first game of the two-game set the night before.

Always one to rise to the occasion, Pujols delivered a vintage, towering blast to break the game open in the fifth inning as the Cardinals defeated the Blue Jays, 6-1 on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.

Pujols’ seventh home run of the season was his 686th of his illustrious career, and it traveled an estimated 439 feet⁠—his farthest-struck dinger of the year.

“He’s unbelievable. He might be old a little bit,” the 40-year-old Wainwright said, stifling a bout of knowing laughter. “He might be old, but he can still hit.

“He’s my man. Just fun to watch him. That was a tank bomb he hit tonight, too. So he’s still got some pop.”

Wainwright was also satisfied with his own contributions to the much-needed team win Wednesday. The long-time Cardinals’ ace stressed the importance of the chance to thrive against a Toronto lineup that has been tearing the cover off the ball recently. The Jays had won seven straight coming into Wednesday’s game, with gaudy scoring totals that included a 28-run outburst within that stretch.

Tuesday against St. Louis, they piled up 10 runs on Cardinals’ pitching, making Wainwright’s seven innings of one-run baseball Wednesday all the more remarkable.

“I was looking at it as a great opportunity to go out and prove that I still have what it takes to be a great pitcher in this game,” Wainwright.

The 17-year pro did exactly that, becoming the first starter to notch eight or more strikeouts against the potent Blue Jays offense since July 2. He also did it without walking a single batter, something the Cardinals were relieved to see from their pitcher after struggling with free passes on Tuesday. His superlative effort on the mound coincided with a 3-for-4 night for Pujols, who fell a triple shy of the cycle in the St. Louis win.

Not a bad night for old guys, eh?

“I mean, that’s why we still play the game,” Wainwright said. “We feel like we can contribute. I don’t think he’s out there⁠—and I’m not out there⁠—to try to be mascots or anything like that. We want to go out and contribute and be quality players.”

The Cardinals got some quality production from one of their youngsters, too, with rookie Nolan Gorman knocking the first opposite-field home run of his big-league career in the fifth. After seeing his name floated in trade rumors in recent days, it was a nice moment for Gorman, who went 2-for-4 while scoring two runs in the win.

“It’s good to see for him, for his confidence⁠—and for us, because we need his bat,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “He had a good session today with our hitting guys, early on the field. He was really detailed in what he wanted to do and it was good to see that type of night for him.”

Next, St. Louis will enjoy an off-day Thursday in Washington D.C. before starting up a weekend series with the Nationals on Friday. Marmol believes the type of impact we saw Wednesday from his team’s veteran leadership will be an element that sustains the club through the upcoming push for the postseason.

“When you get these veteran guys in Albert and Waino,” Marmol began. “And they know what’s on the line. And they sniff what’s possible. And what we set out to do—I think we’re going to see some different personalities come out here pretty soon.”