LOS ANGELES — Albert Pujols’ days of thunder are largely behind him, but he demonstrated Thursday he still can be trusted in a big game.
With the Dodgers facing elimination from the postseason, the future Hall of Famer received the start at first base and went 2-for-4 with two singles and a walk in his team’s 11-2 victory over the Braves in Game 5 of the NLCS. Twice Pujols was on base when Chris Taylor homered.
“He’s been an outstanding leader for us all season, and we have a lot of confidence in him,” Taylor said. “Obviously he’s been in some huge moments, huge spots in his career and he’s a true professional and he can really hit.”
The 41-year-old Pujols, who has been used mostly as a pinch-hitter, has not indicated if he intends to play in 2022.
“I think Albert can do whatever he wants to do, and if he wants to play next year, he’s certainly going to be a really good contributor to whatever ball club,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“You learn not to bet against Hall of Fame ballplayers because they understand what it takes to have success and they understand how their bodies, skill set might have changed or diminished a little bit because of age, which that happens to everyone, but how to still be productive and he’s a winning baseball player and he’s been huge for us.”
The Braves received an additional weapon for the NLCS and potentially beyond.
Jorge Soler, who had been placed on the COVID-19 list before Game 4 of the NLDS, was reinstated, replacing outfielder Cristian Pache. Under MLB protocols, Soler had to test negative and be cleared by a joint committee before returning.
He came off the bench and struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. The 29-year-old Soler posted a .269/.358/.524 slash line in 55 games for the Braves after arriving from Kansas City at the trade deadline.
“That’s a great weapon off the bench right there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Justin Turner was removed from the Dodgers’ roster with a strained left hamstring, ending his season. Under MLB roster substitution rules he would be ineligible to play, even if the Dodgers reach the World Series. The veteran infielder was 4-for-34 (.118) this postseason with one homer. Infielder Andy Burns replaced Turner on the roster.