A tip of a St. Louis Cardinals cap to former Redbirds slugger Albert Pujols who, on Sunday, passed Stan Musial on the all-time runs batted in list.
Pujols drove in run number 1,952 in the first inning of the Los Angeles Angels game against the Minnesota Twins. Stan the Man knocked in 1,951 runs in 12,718 plate appearances. Incredibly, Pujols reached the mark in 11,436 plate appearances. Of course, it was a different game when Musial played, with far fewer teams to water down pitching but less emphasis on home runs, so it's hard to fairly compare players of different eras.
But, Pujols has solidified his place among the all-time greats of the game by moving up to sixth in one of the most impressive statistical categories. He could pretty easily be fourth all time by the end of this season with Lou Gehrig (1,995) and Barry Bonds (1,996) ahead of him. Pujols is seventh on the career home runs list with 623, seven behind Ken Griffey Jr.
Albert still has a pretty long way to go if he is going to catch Musial in the runs category. He has scored 1,746 times. Musial tallied 1,949 runs when he played.
It's a shame that Pujols didn't accomplish all of these feats in a St. Louis uniform. Part of me is still glad that Musial is still the standard bearer in the Redbirds record book. But, if Albert would have rejected the Halo's overtures to take less to stay in St. Louis like he implied he would when he said it wasn't about the money, I would probably feel differently.
While a former Cardinals player was making his mark on the history books, the current Redbirds weren't exactly turning in a performance for the ages Sunday in Cincinnati where they managed to issue 11 walks to allow the Reds to score six runs while only managing five hits. The Cardinals left nine runners on base, made an out at the plate and struck out 11 times to drop the series finale. Yeah, they won two out of three in the Queen City. But they lost two of three to the pathetic Miami Marlins at Busch Stadium, so it would have been nice to take that last game against the Reds and come out of six games against two of the worst teams in baseball with more than a 3-3 split.
Carlos Martinez, who didn't look like he was ready to be back from the disabled list after his previous start looked as bad or worse this time out. I heard a lot of people say it seemed that Martinez was squeezed by the home plate umpire. But he walked seven in 3 2/3 innings and somehow Cincinnati hurlers could find the strike zone, issuing only three free passes all game. So, let's not make excuses.
Martinez was all over the place and, to my untrained eye, it looked like he wasn't finishing his pitches, throwing his mechanics out of whack. It makes me extremely nervous, even before Alex Reyes tore himself up after 15 months on the disabled list, to see a pitcher alter his mechanics to try to pitch when he shouldn't be out there. Would it decrease the Birds' chances of winning in 2018 to sit Martinez out? Sure. But it will decrease their chances of winning in 2019, 2020 and 2021 to ruin his shoulder or send him under the Tommy John knife.
I admire Martinez's willingness to go out there and try to compete with less than his best. But I think it is ill-advised in this case.
Meanwhile, Dakota Hudson is tearing things up in Class AAA Memphis. The lanky righty is 7-2 with a 2.44 earned run average for the Memphis Redbirds. He's struck out 52 in 66 1/3 innings of work and has allowed only one home run. So, it's not as if the Cardinals don't have any warm bodies to fill out the rotation. I'm sure part of the problem is that Hudson isn't on the 40-man roster and another is that St. Louis doesn't want to start his free agent clock. But how much more does he have to prove in the minor leagues?
The Cardinals simply have to find some consistency and focus if they're going to remain in the National League Central race. They don't have enough reliable options in the bullpen lately. How many times in the past two weeks has a four or five-run lead been uncomfortable? And then there is the fact that, while Marcell Ozuna seems to have found his stroke, St. Louis has two guys it was counting on to be starters who are hitting well under .200 in mid June. The Birds are unlikely to part ways with either Dexter Fowler or Kolten Wong this season. So they simply have to find a way to get them going — and soon — or else they're going to have to hope they'll be content as bench players. And that's doubtful.