Chief Correspondent, Matt Tallarini                   
October 3, 2022

Albert Pujols has taken a special role for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.   Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina have had a historic finish in baseball history in their triumphant careers.  During the pregame festivities of the final regular season game at Busch Stadium the core three, Pujols, Molina and Wainwright were honored with special gifts from the City of St. Louis mayor’s office and from the St. Louis Cardinals organization.  The City of St. Louis has proclaimed October 2nd as Albert Pujols Day for the Spirit City.  The celebration was very fitting for Albert, Yadier, and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright going into their final starts at Busch Stadium in their storied Cardinals careers. 

Cardinal’s manager Oliver Marmol penciled Yadier and Pujols in the lineup one last time during the regular season in St. Louis.  Could Albert go out of Busch and end his storied career in St. Louis on a high note?  The stage was set for the final game of the regular season home stand at Busch before the Cardinals would travel to Pittsburgh for the final three games of the regular season.

In Adam’s and Yadier’s 17th season together, Wainwright took the mound for his 32nd start of the regular season and his 328th start with Molina behind the dish, most  by any battery mate in MLB history.  With an 11-11 starting record for Wainwright to cap off his final season, Adam wanted to have certain mechanics go his way before the Cardinals October postseason run.  During the first inning Wainwright retired the Pirates in order 1-2-3.  

For the Pittsburgh Pirates, starting pitcher Roansy Contreras got the nod to salvage a spoiler against the Cardinals in their final regular season game at Busch. Roansy in his 18th start of the season recorded a 5-5 record an earned run average just below 3 and has helped the starting rotation during the Pirates season.  In the bottom half of the first, the Cardinals were looking to give Wainwright some run support for his final start.  

Leading off the game Brendan Donovan reached on an error from first basemen Ben Gamel giving the Cardinals offense a little spark from the Pirates defensive miscue.  Next batter, Alec Burleson drove a 2-0 fastball to left field advancing Donovan to third base.  Albert stepped in as the third batter of the first inning looking to do damage in his final game in front of the St. Louis faithful.  Pujols on a 3-0 count drove a fastball down the left field line for a double scoring Brendan Donovan and Alec Burleson to take a 2-0 lead out of the gate for the Cardinals.  A few batters later in the inning Yadier Molina would drive in the Cardinals third run with a sac fly to score Pujols to capture a three run first for the Red Birds.

In the top of the second inning, Wainwright began to lose a little bit of his control as he walked the first batter of the second inning Jack Suwinski on five pitches.  Adam was looking to maintain his composure striking out Rodolfo Castro on a 2-2 curve ball for the first out of the second inning.  Cal Mitchell than drove a single to left field advancing Suwinski to second.  Next batter of the second inning, Ben Gamel looked to do damage against Wainwright as he drove the ball over the right center field wall for a three run home run to tie the game up at 3 apiece. 

In the bottom half of the second Contreras bounced back as he retired the first two batters.  Contreras with two outs allowed a walk to Tommy Edman before he got Brendan Donovan to fly out for the third out of the second inning. 

During the top of the third inning Oneil Cruz led off with a single to center field on a 3-2 curve ball from Wainwright.  Bryan Reynolds went up to the plate looking to do damage against Wainwright as Cruz stole second base for his tenth stolen base in his rookie season with the Pirates.  Reynolds went onto ground out to second base resulting in Cruz advancing to third base with one out in the third.  Next batter was Miguel Andujar who drove a sac fly to left which scored Cruz from third as the Pirates took a 4-3 lead in the third inning. 

During the bottom of the third inning, Pujols was due up second for the Cardinals. The first batter of the inning was Alec Burleson who rolled over on a ground ball to first.  In stepped Albert Pujols looking to put the Cardinal faithful into a frenzy in what would be one of his last at bats in St. Louis during regular season play.  Pujols took a first pitch slider as a strike.  The next pitch Pujols belted a four seam fastball to dead center for his final home run in Busch Stadium and number 702 of his career to tie the game at four.  Pujols was third all-time on the runs batted in list just behind Babe Ruth at 2,211 until his final at bat in St. Louis which led to tying Ruth at 2,214 for second in Major League History.  Hank Aaron is the all-time runs batted in leader with 2,297 in his career. 

Contreras would be the victim of the final home run in Busch Stadium for Albert Pujol’s majestic career.  Contreras in his final regular season start would end up just pitching three innings, allowing two earned runs, three hits, two walks, and no strikeouts. 

In the bottom of the fourth, relief pitcher Chase De Jong came in for the Pirates to try to keep the game in hand for Pittsburgh.  Dylan Carlson lead off the fourth with a ground rule double to right which eventually led to him scoring on a Paul DeJong double to left to take a 5-4 lead over the Pirates.  In the top of the fifth inning Wainwright would continue to battle against the Pittsburgh offense.  Ji Hwan Bae led off the inning with a single to left on a 0-1 four seam fastball.  The next batter Oneil Cruz stepped to the plate and drove a double to right field which led to Bae advancing to third base.  A few batters later Miguel Andujar would step to the plate and ground out softly back to Adam Wainwright resulting in Bae coming around to score to tie the game up at five.  After Andujar’s at bat,  Jack Suwinski drove a single to right field for Cruz to score the go ahead run for the Pirates as they took a 6-5 lead over the Cardinals.  Then manager Oliver Marmol took a long walk to the pitcher’s mound to take out Pujols, Molina, and Wainwright one last time in front of the roaring St. Louis crowd to witness their beloved icons for one last time.  Replacing them was backup catcher Andrew Knizner, Juan Yepes, and relief pitcher Zack Thompson during the fifth inning.  A standing ovation and a curtain call from the St. Louis faithful was truly fitting as the three faces of the Cardinals franchise walked off together during the final home game of the regular season at Busch Stadium. 

Fast forward to the top of the seventh inning where relief pitcher Duane Underwood would retire the first two batters of the inning.  In stepped Bryan Reynolds to drive a 1-1 curveball over the center field fence for a solo home run to capture a 7-5 lead over St. Louis.  Relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates David Bednar would come into the ninth inning to shut the door against a gritty St. Louis offense.  The Pittsburgh Pirates would go onto win 7-5 which would be their 60th win of the season.  The Pirates are going back to PNC Park against the 92-67 NL Central Division Champion St. Louis Cardinals to close out the 2022 regular season for their final three games.