St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols hits 700th home run

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St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols reacts after hitting a home run in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. Brendan Donovan and Tommy Edman also scored. It was Pujols’ 700th career home run, and the Cardinals won the game 11–0.

Associated Press

The air inside Dodger Stadium was ready to be split, and a storybook coda to one of baseball’s most notable stories in 2022 — or, indeed, many more years — was waiting to be aired. written. An impossibility two months ago became a foregone conclusion, and Albert Pujols came to the plate in the third and fourth innings to drive a home run into each of the left-field bleachers.

The home runs were the 699th and 700th of Pujols’ career, putting him in a class with Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron and Barry Bonds as the only four men in Major League Baseball history to reach that plateau.

The 700th home run, a returned overhead slider from Dodgers right-hander Phil Bickford, was the 21st of the season for Pujols in his return from the swansong in St. Louis. Indeed, when he signed in spring training, there were cynics who wondered if he would muster 21 total hits for the season, let alone homers.

When he reached the All-Star Break with just .215 with six homers, it looked like the farewell tour would indeed just be polite recognition stops, waving to fans as he remembered the player he was. . Then, after being named for the game – which was held at Dodger Stadium – he returned as something else.

He wasn’t the player he was supposed to be. He was back to being the player he always was.

With 15 circuits in the second half, Pujols left on a tear. And while its immortality has long been established, the appeal of 700 is impossible to deny. Even though he politely answered all questions with a desire for team victories and even though each editing circuit drew more and more drama, the reality of his pending momentous achievement hadn’t really seemed s ‘to press in. Until Friday.

Hits historic home runs against the Dodgers, his former team

It’s only fair that Cardinals fans are nostalgic that the story was set late and away from home, but really, it’s fitting that Pujols 700’s story comes to Hollywood. After his release from the Angels early last spring brought a disappointing end to what had become a cautionary tale about both contracts and how sluggers can grow old, the Dodgers welcomed him.

With a new lease to write the ending to his story as he wished and a mandate to demolish left-handed pitching, the struggling Albert Pujols, wracked with pain in his lower half, became “Tío Albert” instead, and he didn’t just fortify a formation. but a clubhouse. He only spent 85 of his more than 3,000 career games as a Dodger, but they were of such significance that his daughter, Sophia, was dressed in blue and a number 55 jersey on Friday as she watched her father spin the magic of yarn and leather.

Indeed, on his signing this year in spring training, MLB Network host and St. Louis native Greg Amsinger turned to others on a panel and expressed no doubt. that Pujols would reach 700. “Friday night in Los Angeles in September,” confidently, was the prediction, met with suspicion and derision.

Suddenly, now, it’s magic.

Andrew Heaney and Bickford were the 454th and 455th different pitchers Pujols homered on, breaking his own record he set earlier this season. Bickford’s homer was his 500th against a right-handed pitcher, leaving him with precisely 200 against left-handers. His 65th career multi-home run game is now two behind Mark McGwire for fourth all-time in that category. There are lists upon lists upon lists; it only seems to scale them.

Emotions pour out for Pujols

For all the statistical minutia and all the ways to break down the numerical improbabilities of what Pujols achieved, Friday’s scene as he rounded the bases tells the story better than any other analysis. He ran with a broad smile that sometimes crept in after a swing, but never before as he took to his trot. He crossed home plate and made a sharp right turn to where fellow Dominican legend Adrián Beltré sat behind home plate, trading high fives across the screen.

He returned to his teammates, wrapping first Brendan Donovan and then the others in warm hugs, with special time spent for Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. He stepped out of the dugout with his helmet on his chest, wrapping his arms around his body to acknowledge the warm embrace of the crowd, and he tilted his helmet towards the fans and the game.

And then, as those in Los Angeles reported, he cried. Albert Pujols, one of the most towering figures in baseball and St. Louis Cardinals history, took several steps through the Dodger Stadium dugout tunnel, crouched down and cried heartbreaking sobs, feeling the release and relief of a plateau that so many guaranteed he would never reach.

Maybe he now knows how those who have watched and adored him for so long feel. So many things, after all, should have been impossible. But there was Albert – never doubted.

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St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols hits a home run in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. Brendan Donovan and Tommy Edman also scored. It was Pujols’ 700th career home run. The Cardinals won the game 11-0. Ashley Landis Associated Press

This story was originally published September 24, 2022 10:49 a.m.

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