Comment: Albert Pujols shines at what may be the last playoff start

The game had at least four innings to play. His team had two hits and he had both. That postseason series was a draw and he was out of the game.

He wasn’t hurt. His team had voluntarily silenced one of the deadliest bats in baseball history.

Twenty years and a day had passed since Albert Pujols scored his first post-season homerun in front of Hall of Famer Randy Johnson.

The hall will call for Pujols too, and we will remember his glory days, his three most valuable player awards, how he accepted the “best baseball player” torch from Barry Bonds and graciously passed it on to Mike Trout.

We will long ago have forgotten what the final picture of Pujols could be after the season: leaving the game for a pinch runner, the game being very dubious. Running for Pujols: Billy McKinney, a journeyman with three stolen career bases.

You’re not pulling on Superman’s cloak.

That the Dodgers have come this far with Pujols is a victory for him and for them. The Angels had never won a postseason game with him on their list. In the final year of their decade, the Angels finally had a better, younger first baseman. The Angels didn’t think that Pujols could be satisfied as less than a full-time player.

When the Angels cut him in May, the Dodgers had an opening for an RPG, train, and bench bat for left-handed pitching. Pujols received no further assurances from Andrew Friedman, president of the Dodgers baseball operations, and Dave Roberts, manager of the Dodgers.

“Whether he’s in the playoffs with us or not finishing the season with us, there are many different ways it could have gone,” said Roberts before the Dodgers lost 1-0 to the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Monday evening.

Pujols did his job and met left-handed people. He also acted as a mentor and nightly hugger.

In all honesty, said Roberts, he was surprised that the Pujols summer had gone so well.

“I am,” said Roberts. “I’m not surprised at the way the business is [went] and … he takes on the role, but man, he was as influential in the clubhouse as he was on the pitch. “

The Dodgers’ Albert Pujols is congratulated in the dugout after being replaced by pinch runner Billy McKinney in the fifth inning.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

If Max Muncy hadn’t been injured, the first base would have been Monday. If Cody Bellinger hadn’t been one of the least productive hitters in the Major Leagues this season, the first base could have been his.

Instead there was Pujols, 41, batting seventh.

In the 77 postseason games he started before this one, he was third or fourth every time.

“That’s what you always play for, in order to have a chance to play deep in October,” said Pujols SportsNet LA before the game. “To have another chance is great.”

It could be his last chance.

The remaining starters of the Giants are right-handed. The Dodgers are a loss from the winter. Pujols hasn’t said if he hopes to play next season and the list of clubs with a role for a single position platoon hitter couldn’t be long. Perhaps the NL will help by adopting the designated hitter.

On Monday, Pujols didn’t want to look so far ahead.

“I am blessed to have the opportunity to wear this uniform,” he said. “I get another opportunity to play in the postseason.

“Right now I’m just going to enjoy this moment tonight and try to help this ball club win. If it goes tomorrow I’ll just try to do the same. I don’t like to plan ahead. I don’t like to think ahead. I just like to live day in and day out.

“It’s a blessing to have the opportunity to play in the big leagues and playoffs. As one of eight teams [remaining] in the playoffs, out of 30 ball clubs in the league, it’s pretty great. That’s what you play for. “

Pujols garnered two hits, both singles, his first multi-hit postseason game in 10 years, the first multi-hit game by a player this old since Julio Franco in 2003.

He left after the second hit, and the move was absolutely correct. The Dodgers stayed a run behind, McKinney could have scored with an extra base hit from the start, and the Giants were on the verge of removing their left-handed starter.

The scene was still harrowing.

Father time is unbeaten. He didn’t quite hit Pujols, but Father Time was in the spirit of the Dodgers on Monday when Pujols put his hands over a railing and spoke to Julio Urias. It was the fifth inning and the game was at stake. The game would go on without Pujols.

VIDEO | 01:45

Max Scherzer, Albert Pujols and Dave Roberts on the defeat of Dodgers NLDS Game 3

Dodgers players Max Scherzer and Albert Pujols and manager Dave Roberts talk about the Dodgers’ 0-1 defeat in NLDS Game 3 against the San Francisco Giants.

Comments are closed.