St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols joins 700 club with two-home run day

LOS ANGELES — Albert Pujols became the fourth member of the 700 Home Run Club Friday night, and he did so in an emphatic manner, starting two home runs in front of a packed crowd at Dodger Stadium.

The first homer — a 434-foot blaster with two runs down left field — came in the third inning from Dodgers left-hander Andrew Heaney. The second was a three-run shot in fourth off-right Phil Bickford. By this point, the St. Louis Cardinals were leading 5-0, and Pujols had ridden all of his team’s runs.

Crossing home plate after his 700th homer, Pujols raced to the backstop to hug Adrian Beltre, his longtime rival and one of his closest friends. Shortly thereafter, he found Yadier Molina and pulled him into a firm hug.

The Cardinals won 11-0.

Pujols, ending the final season of a Hall of Famer career, joins Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth in the 700 home run club. He is the only one among them who reached numbers 699 and 700 in the same night. Pujols now has 2,208 career RBIs, just six away from tying Ruth for second on the all-time list.

It’s perhaps fitting that the 42-year-old designated hitter achieved an incredible milestone here at Dodger Stadium, the place he’s often said played a big part in motivating him to embark on a final season in 2022 to play.

Pujols joined the Dodgers last May shortly after his release from the Los Angeles Angels and has been revived as a part-time starter and late-game pinch-hitter for the past five-plus months. He was effective against lefties and was a huge influence in a clubhouse full of veterans who affectionately called him “Tio Albert”.

Before the game, the Dodgers played a montage for Pujols, with heartfelt messages from Julio Urias, Hanser Alberto, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Will Smith and Dave Roberts. Pujols and Molina were given golf bags to commemorate their final seasons, then Pujols grabbed the mic to thank fans of the Dodgers and their organization.

“It brought me so much joy, not only for myself but also for my family,” Pujols told the media before the game when asked what the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium meant to him. “I think it brought something into me, this little boy who was missing that part of the game once again.”

During Pujols’ final season, he played some of his best baseball games down the line. After his 2-for-4 night on Friday, he’s hitting .319/.381/.696 with 15 homers and 38 RBIs in 48 second-half games. His 15 homers and 1,076 OPS are both second-best in the majors over that span, behind only Yankees star Aaron Judge. The surge also coincided with the Cardinals practically running away from the rest of National League Central.

Pujols started this season as a platoon option at DH, but he’s blossomed into one of the Cardinals’ most consistent hitters and is basically an everyday player as they venture into the postseason.

Pujols now hits 21 homers a year, giving him 18 20-homer seasons for his career, the third most in history behind only Aaron (20) and Bonds (19). He is the only player aside from Ted Williams to hit 20 homers in both his freshman and last seasons. He owns the most multihomer games after turning 42 in major league history, with four.

“I’m not tracking numbers,” Pujols said earlier this week. “I went 100 unfollowed and got 698. It’s the same – trusting my process.” St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols joins 700 club with two-home run day

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