Cardinals legend Albert Pujols may soon add another milestone to his impressive MLB resume. The former MVP has hit 695 home runs in his storied career and is now five home runs shy of becoming the fourth player in MLB history with 700 or more career home runs.
His latest home run not only gave the Cardinals the victory but brings Pujols within one home run of tying former Yankees star Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the all-time list.
Pujols was drafted by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB Draft (talk about a draft day steal!) and has played nearly 2000 games for the Cardinals. This year, though, Pujols said he felt an intensity and buzz from the fans like he'd never experienced.
I’ve been energized by these fans for 12 years in my career, including the playoffs, but on Friday, I felt something different,” Pujols said following a 2-0 victory over the Cubs. “When I came in and pinch-hit on Friday in my first at-bat against [Sean] Newcomb, I felt something different. I don’t know what it was, but I felt it. I shared it with my family, and I shared it with my kids who were here and I was like, ‘Wow, this was different.’”
On Sunday, Pujols was once again called on to pinch-hit and he cashed in by sending career home run no.695 out of the ballpark.
Pujols has long terrorized the Cubs and his latest go-ahead home run is a fitting end to a decade spanning rivalry between the two. In 199 career games against the Cubs -- most of them with Saint Louis -- Pujols smashed 59 home runs, 99 extra-base hits, and 149 RBIs. His latest home run also extended Pujols' all-time record of homering off 451 different pitchers.
I’m thinking that’s OK for your last at-bat against the Cubs?” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. Later, Marmol addressed Pujols’ rare ability to block out the noise and pressure of chasing MLB records and deliver in a big moment.
There are times when you take a step back from being locked into the game and you get to be a fan for a minute and experience it the way everybody else does, and that was one of them,” Marmol said. “You take a moment and take it all in because what he’s doing is absolutely incredible.”
Since the All-Star break, Pujols has been on fire at the plate. The former MVP boasts a scorching-hot .373 batting average and has smashed 10 home runs since the all-star break. His home run total in the second half is tied for the sixth-most in the league.
With just under 30 games remaining this season, all eyes will be on Pujols as he tries to crack the 700-home run club. Currently, only legendary sluggers Barry Bonds (762, Hank Aaron (755), and Babe Ruth (714) are the only players with 700+ home runs.
Pujols will have to race against the clock a bit to achieve his goals since he announced that this will be his final MLB season.
If his teammate and Cardinals All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado gets a say, though, Pujols would suit up for Saint Louis again next year.
I think he should come back next year,” said Arenado after Pujols’ two-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning accounted for the Cardinals’ 2-0 win over the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on a rainy Sunday. “He has shown he’s still one of the best hitters in the game."
Milestone or not, Arenda wants Pujols to return.
Even if he does get to 700, I would like to have him back here next year. That’s how much he means to our team. But just think of the crowds we’ll have for the first week of the season.”
In the meantime, expect Pujols to keep his sights set on 700 home runs.
”Certain guys are wired differently,” said Marmol. “Some embrace competition and process anxiety and pressure different than others. Some shy away from it. Some deal with it. Some embrace it. He’s in the bucket of embracing it.”