By JOHN PERROTTO
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Albert Pujols hit his 697th home run, moving past Alex Rodriguez into fourth place on the career list and doing it in dramatic fashion with a ninth-inning drive that rallied the St. Louis Cardinals over the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 Sunday.
The NL Central-leading Cardinals trailed 2-1 when Pujols connected for a two-run drive. Pujols had tied Rodriguez with a home run Saturday night.
Pujols trails Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the all-time homer chart.
“There’s impressive and then there’s unbelievable,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “What we’re witnessing right now is legendary. You have to take a step back from managing the game and take it all in. It’s amazing.”
In his chase for 700 homers, the 42-year-old Pujols has 21 games left in his 22nd and final season in the big leagues. He’s hit 18 home runs this year.
“This opportunity only comes once and it’s something that’s a gift God has given me and I try to take advantage of it every single day,” Pujols said. “I’m not only making memories for me but for the fans, my family and people who love me.”
“At the end of the day, it’s pretty awesome and we’re playing great baseball and have a great group of teammates,” he said.
The Cardinals went to the ninth inning trailing 2-0 but scored four runs off Chase DeJong (4-2).
Tommy Edman and Corey Dickerson led off with back-to-back doubles to produce the first run. Pujols followed with his homer to put the Cardinals on top.
One out after Pujols connected, Tyler O’Neil hit a solo shot to cap St. Louis’ big inning.
The Cardinals won on a day when first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado, two NL MVP candidates, got the day off.
De Jong entered the game with a 19-inning scoreless streak.
“Really poor execution falling behind to a really good hitter,” De Jong said of Pujols’ home run. “I left a fastball over the middle of the plate. It should’ve been down. Stuff that was supposed to be up was down, and stuff that was supposed to be below the zone stayed in the zone. That’s on me completely, and I have got to execute better in key situations like that.”
Greg Allen’s two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth drew the Pirates within 4-3. Ryan Helsley then got Ben Gamel to fly out for his 16th save.
Chris Stratton (8-4) retired both batters he faced.
The Cardinals had been shut out on three hits through the first eight innings but rallied for their eighth win in their last 11 games. The Pirates missed a chance to win their first series since sweeping Milwaukee from Aug. 2-4.
Edman had two hits to run his hitting streak to 13 games.
Mitch Keller pitched seven scoreless innings for the Pirates, allowing just two singles. He struck out six and walked three.
The Cardinals’ Jose Quintana pitched one-run ball over 5 1/3 innings. It was his first start against the Pirates since they traded him to St. Louis on Aug. 1.
Rookie Jack Suwinski homered in the seventh to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. Oneil Cruz drove in the game’s first run with a grounder in the third.
ANOTHER WINNING SEASON
The Cardinals clinched their 15th consecutive winning season Saturday night with a 7-5 victory over the Pirates. That ties the franchise record set from 1939-53.
Pirates manager Derek Shelton was ejected by home plate umpire Clint Vondrak in the third inning for arguing a checked-swing third strike on Bryan Reynolds. It was Shelton’s four ejection of the season.
Cardinals: Off Monday before opening a three-game home series with Milwaukee on Tuesday. LHP Jordan Montgomery (8-3, 3.08) will start for St. Louis. He is 5-0 with a 1.45 ERA in seven starts since being acquired from the New York Yankees in a trade.
Pirates: Open a four-game series at Cincinnati on Monday with RHP Bryse Wilson (2-8, 6.11) facing LHP Mike Minor (4-10, 5.70). Wilson is 0-2 with a 6.85 ERA in his last five games.
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