If there was one silver lining about being stuck in the Wild Card Game against arguably the hottest team in MLB, it’s that Los Angeles Dodgers veteran Albert Pujols will get another crack at his former team.
The St. Louis Cardinals will come to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday evening to determine who will advance to the NLDS and we can expect Pujols to be in the starting lineup due to the injury to Max Muncy, which is expected to keep him out for the remainder of the year.
There is a world in which Cody Bellinger gets the start at first base against the Cards, especially with right-hander Adam Wainwright on the mound, but given his rib injury and how truly bad he’s been this year, manager Dave Roberts might want to stick with the tailor-made narrative that will elicit the best of chills throughout the baseball community.
Did you not see Pujols’ return to Busch Stadium a few weeks back? Though he only went 1-for-7, he homered in his first at-bat and then later walked when called upon to pinch hit. He’s obviously not going to move the needle in dramatic fashion, but he’s a sturdy veteran who has endless postseason experience.
Dodgers slugger Albert Pujols vs the Cardinals is made for television.
Earlier this year, Pujols talked about how the playoff race has revitalized him as a player, which was something the Angels obviously couldn’t provide. After signing a 10-year contract with the AL LA team, he sniffed the postseason ONCE in his nine years there, and would’ve been 1-for-10 had he not been released earlier in 2021.
In a shocking turn of events, the Dodgers picked him up to utilize him as a veteran bench piece and influential voice in the clubhouse. Now, he’ll have the same amount of playoff appearances with his new team after just four months than he did across a decade with the Angels.
It’s obvious how playing on competitive team has turned Pujols’ fortunes around. In just 85 games, mostly featuring part-time duty, he’s slashed .254/.299/.460, which, though a small sample size, is his best line since 2016.
Now, with something to play for and surrounded by a collection of All-Stars, Pujols could stand to make an impact in Wednesday’s do-or-die affair against the team that’s witnessed him compile an overwhelming majority of his Hall-of-Fame resume.
Pujols has historically come through in the clutch, but he’s once again discovered new life in that department in 2021. With runners in scoring position (again, a small sample size), the slugger is hitting .301 with an .855 OPS and 32 RBI, most of which have come with the Dodgers. That’ll play in a game where every at-bat matters to an unconscionable degree.
And with the mental edge over the team he played over 1,700 games for? Come on, it’s all right there for the taking.