A series started Monday between two playoff contenders in St. Louis that looks to be all kinds of fun. The 86-51 Dodgers are one game out in the NL West and holding a gigantic cushion for the top wild card spot. The 69-67 Cardinals are 3 1/2 games out in the fight for the second NL wild card.
This series is four games, too.
As backdrop, Albert Pujols will be in St. Louis and it's entirely possible this is the last time he'll be there as a player. To be clear, Pujols hasn't closed the door on coming back next year or anything, but he's in the final year of his contract and is a 41-year-old player looking like he's on his last legs.
Pujols didn't appear in the first game of the series -- a 5-1 Dodgers win behind a dominant Max Scherzer -- but he's batting third in Dave Roberts' lineup for Tuesday's game against lefty starter J.A. Happ:
Since coming to the Dodgers, Pujols has enjoyed success as a part-timer. In 69 games, he's hit .261/.303/.479 (109 OPS+) with 11 homers in 165 at-bats. He's looking to win another ring with a very talented Dodgers team.
The glory days for Pujols, though, came in St. Louis. In 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Pujols won a Rookie of the Year, three MVPs and two World Series. He hit .328/.420/.617 (170 OPS+!) with 2,073 hits, 455 doubles, 445 homers, 1,329 RBI, 1,291 runs and countless memories. He won six Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves. How good was Pujols? In addition to those three MVPs, he finished second in voting four times -- twice to late-prime Barry Bonds -- and third once.
Pujols has returned to St. Louis as a member of an opposing team before. In 2019, his Angels visited Busch Stadium to great Pujols fanfare as many believed that would be his last time there. He even homered.
The best part of that highlight is clearly Yadier Molina throwing dirt playfully on Pujols as he crossed the plate, though the opposing-player curtain call was decent as well.
"I never thought that was the last time," Pujols said of that visit (via The Athletic). "The thought never crossed my mind. But having another opportunity to go back to where everything started for me, it's going to be a special moment."
Pujols will get to see Molina behind the plate and Adam Wainwright is the scheduled starting pitcher on Wednesday. The trio won the World Series together with the Cardinals in 2006 and then again in 2011 (though Wainwright was out that season after undergoing Tommy John surgery). Molina and Wainwright have been career Cardinals while Pujols spent 11 years there. The three seem strongly tied to each other. Molina is set to retire after 2022. Wainwright doesn't have much time left as a player, and in all likelihood and this might be Pujols' last trip to the place where he became a Hall of Famer.
There are bound to be some special moments in Busch Stadium this week revolving around the three.