The Mt. Rushmore of main league sluggers gained a fourth chiseled face—this one with a darkish, tightly cropped beard, a seemingly everlasting scowl and a gold chain round its neck — when Albert Pujols clubbed the 700th dwelling run of his Corridor-of-Fame profession at Dodger Stadium on Friday evening.
The burly St. Louis Cardinals star, who spent a lot of the previous decade with the Angels, despatched the milestone blast into the pavilion in left-center area and joined Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) as the one gamers in main league historical past to hit 700 dwelling runs. The house run gave the Cardinals a 5-0 lead over the Dodgers within the fourth inning. He drove within the Cardinals’ first two runs on dwelling run No. 699 within the third inning.
“It’s a number that Babe and Hank set way back when, a number of longevity, of stability, of greatness,” former Cardinals and Oakland Athletics slugger Mark McGwire, who hit 583 profession homers, stated of Pujols becoming a member of the unique 700 Membership. “But I’m not surprised at all.
“Listen, if he didn’t have those few years in Anaheim where he basically lost his legs, with his knee and foot injuries, we’d be talking about 800 homers, not 700. There’s no question in my mind that he would have blown by Barry’s record.”
Pujols’ assault on 700 was overshadowed by New York Yankees slugger Aaron Choose’s pursuit of a Triple Crown and Roger Maris’ single-season American League home-run report of 61.
But it surely captivated St. Louis followers, who rose to their ft with sensible telephones positioned to seize each one of many 42-year-old’s at-bats in Busch Stadium, and gamers throughout the sport.
“Every night, you want to check the box score, and when he hits a home run, everybody’s talking about it,” stated Angels middle fielder Mike Trout, who performed nine-plus years with Pujols in Anaheim.
“It’s crazy. When he was here and passing all the big-name guys, you had to pinch yourself sometimes just to be able to witness it. Seven hundred is a lot of homers. But the way Albert works, the time he puts in, the preparation, the dedication … you just can’t bet against him.”
If Pujols felt any stress or was getting too wrapped up within the anticipation of hitting No. 700, it didn’t present earlier than Friday evening’s sport.
“It’s just another number,” Pujols stated. “If it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, then great. I think at the end of the day, I know what I’ve accomplished in this game no matter what the numbers are.”
Pujols’ ascent to 700 close to the top of his twenty second and ultimate season continued a late-career renaissance that started after the growing old and oft-injured first baseman was launched by the Angels in Might 2021 with the crew failing to win a playoff sport over the course of Pujols’ 10-year, $240-million contract.
Pujols, with 667 homers on the time, signed with the Dodgers and hit .254 with a .759 on-base-plus-slugging share, 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 85 video games as a helpful reserve, together with a .953 OPS in opposition to lefties, a five-month stint that Pujols stated contributed to his determination to play one other 12 months.
“The love for the game didn’t go away, but being back in the postseason with an amazing organization was pretty special,” Pujols stated. “I thought about retirement last year, but it did kind of change my mind.”
Pujols signed a one-year, $2.5-million deal final March to return to St. Louis, the place he was baseball’s most-feared right-handed hitter within the first 11 years of his profession, batting .328 with a 1.037 OPS, 445 homers and 1,329 RBIs, successful three Nationwide League Most worthy participant awards and two World Sequence titles.
Nicknamed “The Machine” due to his constant manufacturing within the first decade of his profession, Pujols was extra of a spare half this season, relegated to a platoon designated hitter and pinch-hitter function, with most of his begins coming in opposition to left-handers.
His sluggish begin to 2022 gave little indication he would hit the 21 homers wanted to achieve 700 — Pujols was batting .189 with a .601 OPS, 4 homers and 17 RBIs on July 4.
However a slight mechanical adjustment in his swing to remove some motion in his arms and produce a shorter path to the ball in early July and a shocking run to the semifinals of the house run derby in Dodger Stadium on July 18 helped gas a second-half surge.
Pujols hit .315 with a 1.052 OPS, 12 homers and 29 RBIs in 38 from Aug. 10 by way of Thursday. He had a 1.224 OPS in August, the very best in baseball amongst gamers with 65 plate appearances or extra. He hit 5 homers in a single five-game stretch from Aug. 14-20.
“I think for me, it’s been more special because it almost felt like people forgot about him in Anaheim,” Cardinals bench coach Skip Schumaker stated. “And then he had that resurgent second half last year and was great.
“But to say that you thought this was going to happen? I mean, I’d be lying to you if I said I thought it was going to happen.”
Schumaker, 42, is identical age as Pujols, a former utility man who performed with Pujols in St. Louis from 2005-2011 and retired in 2015. Seven years later, Pujols remains to be crushing dwelling runs, and Schumaker is 5 years into his teaching profession.
“It is amazing,” Schumaker stated. “There aren’t many 40-year-olds playing the game, and I think you could talk to some 35-year-olds in the league who feel terrible [physically], right? But I don’t think any of this is surprising anymore.”
Schumaker recalled a latest dialog he had with Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, 35, an NL MVP candidate who entered the weekend collection in opposition to the Dodgers with a .321 common, 1.003 OPS, 35 homers and 112 RBIs.
“Goldy was saying he hit his 300th career homer [this season], and he’s still 400 homers away [from Pujols],” Schumaker stated. “And he’s a pretty good player, right? That puts into perspective where Albert is at. He’s just on another level.”
Few expertise evaluators thought Pujols had All-Star, not to mention Corridor-of-Fame, potential. A local of the Dominican Republic who moved to Missouri as a youngster, Pujols was a Thirteenth-round choose — and 402nd general choice — of the Cardinals out of Maple Woods Neighborhood Faculty in Kansas Metropolis, Mo. in 1999.
However Pujols shredded minor league pitching in 2000 and hit the ball with such authority in his first big-league camp in 2001 that McGwire instructed an ESPN reporter that spring that Pujols is “going to the Hall of Fame, no doubt.”
Greater than 20 years later, Pujols ranks fourth on baseball’s all-time dwelling run listing regardless of by no means hitting 50 homers in a season, third in RBIs (2,205), fifth in doubles (685), tenth in hits (3,375) and twelfth in runs (1,904).
“The work ethic I saw on the first day I watched him [in 2001] has never let up,” McGwire stated. “And think about the hundreds of millions of dollars he’s made, and it’s never affected the way he went about his business. I really hope the media, baseball fans, really understand the greatness we’ve had in front of us.”
It hasn’t been one lengthy energy journey for Pujols, an 11-time All-Star. He had extra walks than strikeouts in 10 seasons and has by no means struck greater than 93 occasions in a 12 months. He gained a batting title with a .359 common in 2003. He gained two Gold Glove Awards. He stole 16 bases in 2005 and 2009 and 14 in 2010.
“You don’t think of someone hitting 700 homers as a complete player, but he was,” McGwire stated. “We’re basically witnessing another Hank Aaron, a line-drive hitter with gap-to-gap power who also never hit 50 homers in a season.
“There’s a reason Albert should be a unanimous, first-ballot Hall-of-Fame selection. If he’s not, there’s something wrong with the system.”