It seems almost fitting that he gets the first chance to do so at PNC Park.
The three-time NL MVP hit his 29th homer Sunday to spark a four-run first inning and help St. Louis to a 6-2 win over Colorado.
“It doesn’t matter, as long as they go over the wall,” Pujols said of his 465-foot blast, the longest in six-year-old Busch Stadium’s history. “Obviously, it feels good to hit one like that. I know I hit it good.”
After breaking off contract talks in the spring, Pujols managed one homer in his first 12 games. He also missed just 14 games in June and July with a wrist injury that was expected to sideline him four to six weeks.
Sunday’s homer was his fifth in 10 games and moved Pujols past teammate Lance Berkman(notes) and Los Angeles’ Matt Kemp(notes) for the NL lead, five behind Toronto’s Jose Bautista(notes) for tops in the majors.
Pujols has hit 203 homers and driven in 673 runs in St. Louis during his illustrious career, but he’s also treated Pittsburgh like a second home. Pujols’ 27 homers and 80 RBIs at PNC Park are the most he’s had in any opponent’s stadium. He’s also hit .386 in 83 games there - his highest average in any NL ballpark.
St. Louis (65-56) took two of three in Pittsburgh last month as Pujols went 5 for 14 with a homer and three RBIs. The Cardinals and Pirates have split six games this year.
After throwing 11 2-3 scoreless innings to win his first two games following the All-Star break, McDonald has gone 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three outings.
The right-hander has had trouble keeping the ball in the park lately. McDonald has served up seven homers in his last three starts after yielding 13 in his first 20.
“I feel like in my career, I’ve given up home runs,” he told the Pirates’ official website. “But as long as I keep the damage to a minimum, I’m pretty happy.”
McDonald is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in six games - two starts - against St. Louis.
What was turning out to be a storybook season for the Pirates (56-63) has crumbled in recent weeks. They were atop the NL Central on July 19 but have since lost 19 of 24, tumbling 13 games behind first-place Milwaukee.
Pittsburgh lost its 12th straight to the Brewers on Sunday, falling 2-1 in 10 innings to cap a 2-4 road trip.
Returning home may not provide much relief. The Pirates went 0-7 against the Chicago Cubs and San Diego from Aug. 1-7, posting an 8.60 ERA during the worst homestand in the franchise’s 125-year history.
Westbrook is 0-2 with a 5.00 ERA in six career appearances with two starts against Pittsburgh. Both losses came late last season after St. Louis acquired the right-hander at the trading deadline.
Westbrook, 5-1 in his last eight road games, is coming off Wednesday’s 5-1 home loss to Milwaukee. He gave up three runs, six hits and a season high-tying five walks in eight innings.