LOS ANGELES — Albert Pujols blasted his way into the exclusive 700-home run club when he drilled the second of two home runs on Friday night at Dodger Stadium, with the milestone reached in the fourth inning off right-hander Phil Bickford.
The 42-year-old Pujols, who has said this is the final season of his 22-year career, joined Barry Bonds (762 home runs), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) as the only sluggers in AL/ NL history to hit at least 700 long balls in his career. Pujols and Aaron are the only two with at least 3,000 hits and 700 home runs.
After circling the bases, Pujols went straight over to Adrian Beltre for a high-five through the netting. He was then greeted outside the dugout by his Cardinals teammates. Not only did the crowd at Dodgers Stadium give him a standing ovation, the Cardinals slugger was greeted with chants of “Pu-jols! Pu-jols! Pu-jols” and “Al-bert! Albert! Albert!”
Pujol’s hit No. 699 against left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney in the third inning and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went to the bullpen for Bickford before Pujols stepped to the plate. He then smashed another long ball off Bickford to move into the No. 700 club.
Pujols also hit his 499th and 500th home runs in the same game for the Angels against the Nationals in DC on April 22, 2014.
Friday’s home runs 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 has hit at least two home runs in a game.
Pujols’ second dinger also extended his AL/NL record to 455 pitchers homered off during his career. He came into the season second to Bonds (449), but he passed him on Aug. 29 in Cincinnati and has continued to extend the record with a flurry of post-All-Star break home runs.
Pujols hit home run No. 698 last Friday at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium to help the Cardinals rally from a three-run deficit and defeat the Reds. Before he hit No. 699, five of Pujols’ previous six home runs had been to either tie the game or put the Cardinals in the lead. Also, there is this statistic to back up how important Pujols has been to the Cardinals’ ascension to the top of the NL Central: Prior to Pujols’ 699th homer, the Cardinals had been 15-1 in the games in which he had homered and 3-0 in the instances when he clubbed two home runs.
In the days following No. 698, Pujols went 0-for-9 in the next three games, preventing him from pulling closer to 700 in front of sellout crowds at Busch Stadium. Some 94,977 fans packed Busch Stadium for Saturday’s doubleheader in hopes of seeing Pujols go on a run to 700. Another 47,909 fans – comprising the Cardinals’ 26th sellout of the season and the sixth-largest crowd in the 16-year history of Busch Stadium III – attended Sunday’s game only to see Pujols and the Cardinals get shut out.
It should come as little surprise that Pujols’ 699th and 700th home runs came on the road. Before No. 699, he had hit 11 home runs 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. In his career, Pujols has hit more road homers (369) than home blasts (331).
Among his major milestone home runs, Pujols blasted his first home run (2001), his 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 slashing .215/.301/.376 with six homers, 20 RBIs and a .676 OPS in the first half of the season, Pujols has since started to resemble the feared slugger he was much earlier in his career. He slashed .313/.377/.657 with 13 homers, 33 RBIs and a 1.034 OPS in his first 47 games of the second half. Pujols had just four homers through June before launching three in July and eight in August. No. 699 was his fifth home run of September.