Albert Pujols hit his 697th home run, moving him ahead of Alex ‘A-Rod’ Rodriguez on the all-time list, to power the St. Louis Cardinals past the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3.
The Dominican slugger’s two-run drive at the top of the ninth moved him to fourth on the list, and he’s now only behind legends Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762) in all-time Major League Baseball home runs.
Pujols will now have his sights set on joining the illustrious 700 home run club, but he only has 21 games left to reach the milestone after announcing that this would be the final season in his storied career.
The two-time World Series champion is adamant that, if he doesn’t hit the 700 milestone, it will not affect his decision to finish his 22-year career at the end of the season.
In July, he told USA Today, “I’m still going to retire, no matter whether I end up hitting 693, 696, 700, whatever, I don’t get caught up in numbers. If you were going to tell me 22 years ago that I would be this close, I would have told you that you’re freakin’ crazy. My career has been amazing.”
Just a few months ago, hitting the 700-mark seemed unlikely; Pujols had a slow start to the regular season after re-joining the team he began his Major League Baseball career with.
The first baseman only managed two home runs in April and May and failed to register a single home run in June. But he has since picked up the pace, hitting 12 home runs since the All-Star break in July.
Pujols’ resurgence has seen the three-time National League MVP enjoy one of his best seasons in recent years. The 42-year-old is hitting .266/.338/.528 with 48 RBI in 91 games and has .866 OPS, form which he has not seen since his first stint in St. Louis.
As ever, Pujols is not one to be caught up in his own achievements. When the fans who caught his 9th-inning bomb tried to return the ball, he refused and instead gifted the couple two more signed balls.
“It’s just a baseball. They deserve to have it. It went out of the ballpark,” Pujols told MLB.com. “We play this game for the fans. So whether they want to give it back or they want to keep it, I don’t have any problem with that. I think it means for that girl more than me having it in my trophy case.”
The victory leaves Pujols’ Cardinals top of the NL Central with an 83-58 record, a month before the end of the regular season. The Cardinals travel to Milwaukee to face the second-place Brewers on Wednesday.