LOS ANGELES (AP) – The batter of St. Louis Albert Pujols hit his 700th home run, connecting for his second ball of the game and becoming the fourth player in major league history to hit the milestone as the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers in Los Angeles by 11-0. friday night
Playing in the final days of his final big league season, the 42-year-old Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.
A man wearing a blue Dodgers jersey with Hideo Nomo’s No. 16 on the back hooked ball No. 700. He was carried under the stands as he clutched a black glove holding the historic souvenir ball to his chest. Protracted negotiations continued before the man was escorted out of Dodger Stadium flanked by 10 security personnel and into a waiting SUV.
Showing the pop of his younger, dominant days, Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then threw No. 700 in the fourth.
A 37-year-old Los Angeles man, Cesar Soriano, stuck the number 699. He passed the ball to security after being told he might know Pujols.
It has been a remarkable and resurgent race for Pujols. It was his 14th home run since early August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals and his 21st of the season.
Not long ago, many considered him a long shot to hit 700 this season. He entered August batting just .235 with just seven home runs.
But with two long shots this evening, he has made his mark.
Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left field dugout, the same location his two-run shot hit the previous inning off lefty Andrew Heaney.
He ran the bases smiling all the way. After crossing the plate and pointing his fingers skyward, Pujols walked over to greet fellow Dominican and former Dodgers star Adrian Beltre. They climbed five through the protective net.
Then he made his way to the Cardinals dugout, receiving hugs and congratulations every step of the way.
Pujols received a standing ovation from the crowd — he finished last season while playing for the Dodgers. He received a curtain call, raising his cap in recognition.
The crowd of 50,041 chanted “Pujols! Hills!” Fans finally sat down after standing waiting to see the story.
His 700th homer also gave him a couple of other nice round numbers: he’s hit 500 right-handed homers and 200 left-handed hitters.
Pujols connected twice on the same night, New York Yankees shortstop Aaron Judge remained on deck for the home run record. He was held to 60 home runs, just short of tying Roger Maris’ AL mark of 61 in 1961, in a win at Yankee Stadium.
Lars Nootbaar, Juan Yepez and Alec Burleson also homered for St. Louis.
Pujols took a swing in his first at-bat against Heaney and left short in the sixth. He was replaced in the eighth by Burleson, who added a pinch-hitter.
José Quintana (6-6) got the win. He gave up five hits in 6 2/3 innings and struck out six.
Cardinals outfielder Corey Dickerson pitched the ninth. With the bases loaded, he retired Trayce Thompson on a fly ball to end the game.
Heaney (3-3) took the loss for the NL West-leading Dodgers.
Pujols tied Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the career list when he hit home run No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.
The three-time NL MVP batted .189 on July 4th. But he began to find his stroke in August, hitting seven home runs in a 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis to pull out of the division race.
“I know at the beginning of the year … obviously I wanted better results,” Pujols said after hitting a home run in a 1-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes that game is going to take more from you than the game is giving back to you.
“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just be focused and trust your work. That’s something I’ve done all along.”
Pujols has enjoyed a productive season after returning to St. Louis in March to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. It’s his highest total since hitting 23 home runs with the Angels in 2019.
He plans to retire at the end of the season.
Pujols began his career in Sant Lluís. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.
The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals win World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.
He set a career high with 49 home runs in 2006, one of seven seasons with at least 40 home runs. He led the majors with 47 home runs in 2009 and led the NL with 42 in 2010.
Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, ten-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021 and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.
AP freelance writer Jolene Latimer contributed to this report.