Albert Pujols hits two homers, Yadier Molina makes pitching debut as St. Louis Cardinals roll

PITTSBURGH -- Albert Pujols hit two home runs, then caught the warm-up tosses when star catcher Yadier Molina made his first pitching appearance to close out the St. Louis Cardinals' 18-4 romp over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

Molina gave up a pair of homers and four runs while working the ninth inning, eventually completing the Cardinals' three-game sweep.

But it was not all fun and games for St. Louis. Starter Steven Matz lasted only four pitches before being pulled with stiffness in his left shoulder. He was placed on the 15-day injured list Monday because of shoulder impingement.

It's been an up-and-down start for Matz, a free-agent addition this offseason from the Toronto Blue Jays. He entered Sunday's start with a 3-3 mark and a 6.03 ERA.

"Sometimes stuff comes up," Matz said Sunday. "I felt it a little bit in the bullpen. I was trying to work through it a little bit. ... Just try to get through this, get some outs."

Pujols boosted his career home run count to 683. Pinch-hitting for Nolan Arenado with St. Louis up 11-0 in the fifth inning, Pujols launched a 425-foot drive off the left-field rotunda.

The 42-year-old slugger added a three-run homer in the ninth off Pirates infielder Josh VanMeter in the ninth. Pujols is fifth on the all-time homer list, 13 behind Alex Rodriguez, and his 32 at PNC Park are the most by an opposing player.

"I'm here to try to help this ball club as much as I can," Pujols said. "This is not about me. It's never been about me. It's always been about this Cardinals organization and the impact I can make on the players in the organization."

Exactly a week after Pujols took the mound for the first time in his big league career, Molina got his turn with St. Louis ahead 18-0. Pujols was behind the plate to warm up his longtime teammate in-between innings.

A perennial All-Star and Gold Glove standout at catching pitches, the 39-year-old Molina didn't do quite as well throwing them. He gave up a solo homer to Yoshi Tsutsugo and a three-run drive by Jack Suwinski.

"I feel like Yadi had more command of his fastball [than Pujols]," Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. "It didn't go his way. Missed middle-middle too much."

Overall, Molina allowed four hits in his one inning, throwing 14 of 20 pitches for strikes, without a strikeout or walk. Pujols also permitted four runs and two homers in one inning while finishing out a rout of San Francisco last Sunday night.

Naturally, the two stars poked each other over who threw it best. Both currently have a 36.00 ERA, by the way.

"Mine was better; I didn't give up a double like he did,'" Pujols said. Retorted Molina: "I didn't walk anybody."

After Matz exited, Angel Rondon (1-0) entered to strike out Ke'Bryan Hayes with his first pitch. Rondon allowed just one hit in five innings for his first win in the majors, striking out four and walking three.

After being recalled from the taxi squad before the game, Rondon made his third major league appearance and first since June 12, 2021.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.