Albert Pujols’ Incredible 0.00 Lifetime ERA Shattered by Dumb Luck, Shoddy Cardinals Defense￼
Albert Pujols and the Cardinals squashed the still-surprisingly-excellent Giants last night, putting up a 15-spot on the backs of 17 hits and three homers. Impressive, considering the Giants won 107 games last season and still appear to be one of the top teams in the league this year. Homers by Arenado, Goldschmidt, and Molina led the way as Adam Wainwright tossed 6 quality innings for the win.
Yeah yeah, that’s enough about that. We need to talk about history being made this May 15, 2022. Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, lifelong Cardinals stars, won their 203rd game as a bat…
Wait a minute.
As the 8th inning drew to a close, many fans were probably looking to get out and beat the traffic. And what fools they would have been to do so.
Pujols was on the hill. No, that was not some obscure relief pitcher sharing the name. It was Albert. The Machine, The Prince, The greatest hitter active in the game today, etc. etc.
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He confidently strode to the mound for warmups. 65 MPH.
In came Darin Ruf to start the inning. He was lucky enough to work a 3-1 count. Finally, he could pick a spot and rip. Pujols released.
A 66 mph lightning bolt, missing by mere millimeters low and away. Lesser men like former Phillies great Vince Velasquez may have gotten the call, but this Olympian? Not a chance.
Ball four, Ruf to first.
Austin Slater stepped to the plate. Working a 1-1 count, Slater saw his chance on a 61 mph laser from the right-hander. Slater swung for the fences, and he reached them in dramatic fashion…
… in foul territory.
1-2. Exactly the way Pujols had drawn it up. He took a little off his next delivery, a 54 mph offspeed pitch. Slater never had a chance, flying out to CF Harrison Bader. “By the book,” Pujols must have thought.
In stepped his next victim, third baseman Evan Longoria. Electing to work the right hander backwards, Pujols dropped two offspeed pitches in the zone to get Longoria to 0-2, an incredibly dangerous situation for the Giant. Pujols looked to roll him over for the double play, dropping a third offspeed offering just below Longoria’s knees.
…By the grace of God, or the deity of your choice, Longo somehow managed to poke it into LF.
Somewhere, angels hung their heads. The music wouldn’t play. In the streets, the children screamed. Lovers cried, and poets dreamed. Not a word was spoken.
The church bells all were broken.
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After a lifetime of not allowing a single hit, an absolutely monumental achievement, Albert Pujols had been beaten. Understandably, Longoria immediately demanded the ball. Who wouldn’t in his place?
The game must go on though, and after what was surely hours of thunderous applause, Pujols stared down Giants shortstop Thairo Estrada.
Estrada must have thought he was sitting pretty after working a 3-0 count, but he would soon discover he was little more than putty in the hands of this master craftsman on the hill. With a 64 mph fastball on the outside part of the plate, Pujols sprung his trap, forcing Estrada to ground to shortstop for what looked to everyone to be a tailor made double play ball for the vaunted Cardinals defense.
Edmundo Sosa gloved it and flipped to Tommy Edman at second. Two down!
The throw to first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
…Not in time. The Cardinals defense had let their relief ace down, moving Ruf up to third and placing Pujols’ lifetime 0.00 ERA in serious jeopardy. It would come down to Luis González, lifetime scrub, to serve as Pujols’ final mark. Working the count to 2-1, Pujols expertly delivered a 54 mph changeup up in the zone, what many would deem an utterly unhittable pitch.
And then it happened:
González swung, and much as a blind squirrel is wont to do, he found his nut.
Boos rang out as the ball sailed into the right field bullpen. The 0.00 ERA evaporated like fog in the morning sun. It was over.
Pujols looked on with disgust as the ball landed, clearly feeling that shoddy defense and dumb luck had converged on this one night. Perhaps it was never meant to be? A man can only beat the odds for so long, and so long it had been for his storied career.
A spider at the center of his web, Pujols knew exactly what to do to bounce back. With the 0.00 ERA monkey off his back, he was able to expertly deliver a 49 mph curve right into Joey Bart’s bat, trading a home run for the surety that the Giants’ hitters would become overconfident and overplay their hand.
Just what the doctor ordered.
With laserlike precision, Pujols opened the matchup against LaMonte Wade Jr. with a pair of strikes. And like a legend of the old west, he drew his trump card.
Wade Jr. never had a chance. A 47 mph curveball above the zone served as the master stroke, forcing the right fielder to ground a ball to shortstop for an easy out.
The crowd exploded in cheers. History had been made. Perhaps Albert Pujols wouldn’t retire with a 0 H/9, and perhaps he wouldn’t have that 0.00 ERA either, but the fans still knew he would be a sure lock for the Hall of Fame when he was ready for the call. Moreover, they knew he was a man, just like them. A beautiful end to a brilliant career on the mound.
It’s often said you should never meet your heroes. But whoever said that wasn’t counting on Albert Pujols coming around. And frankly, thank God.
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