LOS ANGELES — Albert Pujols blasted his way into the exclusive 700 homer club when he punched the second of two homers Friday night at Dodger Stadium, the milestone coming in the fourth inning against right-hander Phil Bickford.
Pujols, 42, who said it was the final season of his 22-year career, joined Barry Bonds (762 home runs), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) as the lone hitters in AL/NL history hit at least 700 longballs in his career. Pujols and Aaron are the only two with at least 3,000 hits and 700 homers.
After circling the bases, Pujols went straight to Adrian Beltre for a high-five through the net. He was then greeted outside the dugout by his Cardinals teammates. Not only did the Dodgers Stadium crowd give him a standing ovation, but the Cardinals slugger was greeted with chants of “Pu-jols!” Pu-jols! Pu-jols” and “Al-bert! Albert! Albert!
Pujols hit No. 699 off left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney in the third inning and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went to the bullpen for Bickford before Pujols interfered. He then smashed another long ball wide of Bickford to enter the No. 700 club.
Pujols also hit his 499th and 500th homers in the same game for the Angels against the Nationals in DC on April 22, 2014.
Friday’s circuits are Pujols’ 20th and 21st of the season. The veteran slugger joins Aaron (20) and Bonds (19) as the only players with at least 18 seasons of 20 or more homers. It was his fourth multi-home run game of the season and the 61st time he hit two or more home runs in one game.
Pujols’ second dinger also extended his AL/NL record to 455 pitchers during his career. He entered the season second behind Bonds (449), but he passed him on Aug. 29 in Cincinnati and continued to extend the record with a flurry of post-All-Star home runs.
Pujols hit home run No. 698 last Friday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis to help the Cardinals regroup from a three-run deficit and defeat the Reds. Before he reached No. 699, five of Pujols’ previous six home runs had either been to tie the game or put the Cardinals ahead. Plus, there’s this stat to back up Pujols’ importance in the Cardinals’ rise to the top of the NL Central: Prior to Pujols’ 699th home run, the Cardinals had been 15-1 in games in which he had managed a homer and 3-0 in cases where he clubbed two home runs.
In the days after No. 698, Pujols went 0-9 in the next three games, preventing him from getting closer to 700 in front of sold-out crowds at Busch Stadium. Some 94,977 fans packed Busch Stadium for Saturday’s doubleheader hoping to see Pujols run to 700. Another 47,909 fans – including the Cardinals’ 26th sale of the season and the sixth-largest crowd in 16 years of Busch Stadium III story – attended Sunday’s game to see Pujols and the Cardinals get shut out.
It should come as no surprise that the 699th and 700th Pujols circuits are on the road. Prior to No. 699, he had hit 11 homers this season on the road – and had two of his three two-homer performances – compared to just eight homers in the hot, humid air of Busch Stadium. During his career, Pujols has hit more home runs (369) than home strikes (331).
Among his major home runs, Pujols scored his first home run (2001), 100th (2003) and 500th (2014) while playing on the road. He now has 466 homers as a Cardinal, 222 as an Angel and 12 with the Dodgers.
After cutting .215/.301/.376 with six homers, 20 RBIs and a .676 OPS in the first half of the season, Pujols has since started to look like the feared hitter he was much earlier in his career. . He cut .313/.377/.657 with 13 homers, 33 RBIs and a 1.034 OPS in his first 47 second-half games. Pujols only hit four home runs through June before throwing three in July and eight in August. No. 699 was his fifth home run of September.
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