Justin Turner homered twice and Will Smith also homered for the playoff-contending Dodgers, who won for the sixth time in eight games. St. Louis has lost four in a row.
A star slugger who led the Cardinals to a pair of World Series championships, the 41-year-old Pujols made his second appearance at Busch Stadium after playing for St. Louis from 2001-2011.
Pujols drew a 40-second standing ovation when his name was announced prior to a first-inning at-bat, with catcher and longtime teammate Yadier Molina stepping in front of the plate to prolong the cheer. They had a short embrace before Pujols stepped in.
Pujols promptly drilled the fourth pitch from J.A. Happ on a line over the wall in left. It was his 679th career home run and 17th of the season.
“It’s one of those things that you hope could happen,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “But the likelihood is very improbable. Getting a standing ovation and then homering in that first at-bat. Storybook. I’m a firm believer that the game honors you. The way Albert’s played the game for so long, the right way, that’s the way it was supposed to go.”
Pujols tried to downplay the moment.
“When it happens, you just let it happen,” he said. “It’s part of the game. Embrace the moment. But try not to get caught up too much.”
His teammates had no problem enjoying the special moment.
“It was pretty surreal,” Turner said. “Pretty cool for everyone in the stadium—not just Albert. Every time he hits a homer, you’re watching history.”
The 10-time All-Star drew a similar fan reaction when he returned to St. Louis with the Los Angels Angels for the first time in 2019 He was given a standing ovation in all 12 plate appearances that series including, a one-minute tribute in his first trip to the plate. He also homered in the first game of that series.
Pujols, who did not play in the series opener Monday night, went 1 for 4. The first baseman signed a 10-year deal with the Angels after the 2011 season, then joined the Dodgers last May.
Alex Vesia (3-1) picked up the win for Los Angeles, which used nine pitchers. He struck out the only man he faced to end the third inning. Corey Knebel started and went one inning as the opener.
Turner recorded the 12th multihomer game of his career and second of the season.
“It was nice to hit some balls hard,” Turner said. “I’ve been putting in some work. It’s nice to get a result.”
Happ (8-8) allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings.
Turner homered in fifth inning to push the lead to 4-2. Smith, who went 4 for 4, added his 23rd home run in the sixth. Turner pushed the lead to a 7-2 with a two-run shot in the ninth and 23rd of the year.
Tyler O’Neill had three hits for St. Louis, which came into play chasing San Diego for the second NL wild-card spot.
“We’ve got to play better ball,” O’Neill said. “Got to be more complete. We’ve got to piece some stuff together.”
Dodgers leadoff man Trea Turner extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a double in the third inning. His career-best streak was a 16-game run in 2020 with Washington.
By Steve Overbey