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St. Louis Hoping Year of Pujols' Return Is Just Like the Year of His Departure

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St. Louis Has Not Won the World Series Since Pujols Departed

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As you read the box score, you have to believe the game happened a long time ago. The starting pitcher went nine innings, more than twice as long as the average outing in today's version.

The game lasted just over two hours, whereas today the average is over three. There were just as many hits as strikeouts, compared to the modern game where the K's greatly outnumber the H's.

Making it seem even further in the past, perhaps to the days of Dimaggio or Dizzy Dean, is the fact that the losing team was in sixth place in the National League. And that same team is now its league's most recent World Series Champions, only it is playing in the American League.

September 28,2011 would have been the last time Albert Pujols suited up for the Cardinals in a regular season game, had the St. Louis front office last week brought their star back to Busch Stadium. Pujols will be greeted by two teammates from his last season, catcher Yadier Molina and pitcher Adam Wainwright.

It was not Wainwright who, at what would be Pujols' last regular season game as a Card for over a decade, went the distance. A twenty game winner and Cy Young runner up the year before, an injury forced Wainwright to sit out the 2011 season.

His replacement as the staff ace, right hander Chris Carpenter, retired the first ten Astros in order before an infield single by Jose Altuve. The future All-Star and World Series winning second baseman, by the way, was the only Houston batter to reach base for the rest of the entire game.

The Cardinals got plenty offense in the 8-0 drubbing of the Astros, their 106th loss of the season. Pujols himself got an RBI single, as did Molina, as St. Louis prepared for their World Series run.

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October was a magical month for the Cardinals, beating the Philadelphia Phillies in five games in the Divisional Series and ousting the Milwaukee Brewers in six games to win the pennant. It took seven nail biters, but the Cardinals took game seven against the Texas Rangers to win the World Series.

Not long after the celebration under the Arch, things began to change in St. Louis as well as throughout baseball. Both leagues would add a second Wild Card to the postseason, starters who lasted nine innings would become extinct, and the Houston Astros would leave the National League after fifty years.

As for the Cardinals, they would have to face the next season without their star player. Three weeks before Christmas, Pujols signed a free agent deal with the Anaheim Angels.

St. Louis soldiered on without their future Hall of Fame first baseman, advancing into the postseason. Their bid to repeat as World Series Champions came up short, when the San Francisco Giants beat them in seven games to capture the National League pennant.

Exactly ten seasons later, Pujols is once again wearing a uniform with a cardinal on it. If the season of his return is anything like that one of his departure ten years ago, St. Louis fans will have a lot to celebrate.


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