ST. LOUIS — Albert Pujols hit his 698th home run, a tying two-run drive in the sixth inning that sparked the St. Louis Cardinals over the Cincinnati Reds 6-5 on Friday night.
Pujols hit a first-pitch slider from Raynel Espinal 427 feet into the left-field stands for his 19th home run this season, tying the score 4-4. Pujols trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the career list.
“It’s just being out there and contributing to this ballclub and this organization,” Pujols said. “I think just getting every opportunity that I’ve been getting, especially lately, and just trying to help this ballclub to win.”
With 2,203 RBIs, the 42-year-old Pujols moved within 11 of Ruth for second, behind Aaron’s 2,297.
Ryan Helsley struck out Kyle Farmer, Jake Fraley and Donovan Solano on nine pitches for his 18th save in 22 chances, the third immaculate inning in Cardinals history after Bob Gibson in 1969 and Jason Isringhausen in 2002.
“That’s pretty cool history to be a part of,” Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner said. “I could tell from his first pitch, Helsley, I was like, ‘OK, he’s ready to go.’”
Pujols is hitting .324 (45 for 139) with 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 47 games since July 10. Five of his last six home runs have come in the sixth inning or later, and his last five homers have tied the game or put St. Louis ahead.
“He continues to do it in meaningful situations,” “That was a big swing,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It’d be one thing if he was just chasing it, but the thing is he’s taking an unbelievable approach and delivering when we need it most.”
Pujols hit a drive to T.J. Friedl at the left-field wall in the seventh. He is in his 22nd major league season and intends to retire at the end of the season.
“This feels like a playoff atmosphere with the fans and the last year of myself and Yadi,” Pujols said, referring to catcher Yadier Molina. “I think everybody’s really excited about it, and I think for us we just try to go out there, play the game, and just enjoy it.”
St. Louis (85-60), which maintained a 7 1/2-game lead over second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central, has 17 games remaining.
After Farmer homered off JoJo Romero to give Cincinnati a 5-4 lead in the seventh, Brandon Donovan walked against Ian Gibaut (1-2) leading off the bottom half, and Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado followed with consecutive RBI doubles.
“These games are fun to play in,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Our team literally gave everything they had to win that game. Obviously, when you do that it’s disappointing, but there’s no question that that’s how you play this game and that pays off.”
Chris Stratton (9-4) got the final out of the seventh. Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty allowed four runs, six hits, two walks and two hit batters in five innings.
Goldschmidt doubled twice and got his 111th RBI.
Reds starter Fernando Cruz, wearing No. 21 to honor Roberto Clemente, retired his first five batters as an opener before hitting Pujols with a pitch and coming out of the game.