LOS ANGELES — Albert Pujols launched his 699th career home run, a no-doubt, 434-foot shot off Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Andrew Heaney into left-center field in the third inning Friday night at St. Louis Cardinals lead 2-0.
The Cardinals are playing their 152nd game of the season, and Pujols is just one home run away from joining Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth in the prestigious 700 home run club. The team plays two more in Los Angeles and then a two-game series in Milwaukee before returning to St. Petersburg. Louis for the final homestand of the season, a three-game set.
Pujols’ two-run shot gave him 2,205 RBIs for his career, nine shy of tying Ruth for second all-time.
It’s fitting that Pujols finds himself on the doorstep of history in L.A., which he has often said played a big role in motivating him to play one final season in 2022.
Pujols, 42, joined the Dodgers last May shortly after being released from the Los Angeles Angels and has been resurgent the past five-plus months while serving as a part-time starter and late-game pinch-hitter. He was effective against left-handers and was a huge influence in a senior clubhouse that fondly called him “Dio Albert”.
Before Friday’s game, Julio Urias, Hanser Alberto, Justin Turner, Max Muncie, Will Smith and manager Dave Roberts played a montage for Pujols. Pujols and Yadier Molina were presented with golf bags commemorating their final seasons, and Pujols later took the mic to thank Dodgers fans and their organization.
“It made me very happy, not just for me, but for my family,” Pujols said before the game. “I think that brought something out in me, the kid was missing that part of the game again.”
Pujols’ final season saw him play his best baseball. He entered Friday’s game at bat. . His rise coincided with the Cardinals practically running away from the rest of the National League Central.
Pujols began this season as a platoon option at DH, but he has emerged as one of the Cardinals’ most consistent hitters and is essentially an everyday player as they enter the postseason.
Pujols now has 18 20-homer seasons, third most in major league history behind Aaron (20) and Bonds (19). He joins Bonds as the only player with 20 homers at age 42 or older, according to ESPN Stats and Information Research.