Pujols homers twice, sparking thoughts of 700

Slugger also passes Hall of Famer Stan Musial for 2nd all-time in total bases

August 21st, 2022

PHOENIX -- The 700-homer club could be getting its fourth member.

If anybody read that statement at the beginning of August -- or perhaps even as recently as a week ago -- they probably would have been skeptical. But Albert Pujols is now mashing like it’s the early 2000s again.

Pujols swatted the 691st and 692nd home runs of his career in the Cardinals’ 16-7 win over the D-backs on Saturday night at Chase Field, going deep in each of his first two at-bats against left-hander Madison Bumgarner. Pujols, who sits fifth on the AL/NL all-time home run list, is only four behind Alex Rodriguez for fourth.

Most home runs in AL/NL history

  1. Barry Bonds, 762
  2. Hank Aaron, 755
  3. Babe Ruth, 714
  4. Alex Rodriguez, 696
  5. Albert Pujols, 692

“This is what always comes to mind, is just the amount of sacrifice that goes into having a career like that,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said after the club ran its winning streak to six games. “These guys have dedicated themselves to being great. And at the end of the day, they’ll walk away being some of the greatest players to ever play this game. It’s fun to have a front-row seat.”

Through the first 62 games of his final MLB season, Pujols had only seven homers. But since Aug. 10, he’s gone deep six times -- the most in MLB during that span -- becoming the oldest player in AL/NL history to hit that many homers over an eight-game stretch (42 years and 216 days), knocking off Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who was slightly younger when he accomplished the feat in 1960, his final season.

Pujols is slashing .438/.491/.938 in 17 games since the All-Star break. His season OPS of .858 would be his best since posting an .859 mark in 2012, his first year with the Angels. And with Saturday’s 4-for-4 showing (which also featured a pair of singles), he became the oldest player with two homers and four hits in an AL/NL game since at least 1901.

Pujols didn’t look that old, though, as he also nearly recorded a steal of second base. He’s not shocked at how good he’s feeling, either.

“That’s all the hard work that I put in, day in and day out,” Pujols said. “Nothing surprises me.”

During the past week, Pujols’ farewell tour has morphed into a realistic pursuit of one of baseball’s most elusive milestones. Down the stretch, Cardinals fans won’t only be checking the standings, but also the homer leaderboard. It’s a bit reminiscent of 1998, when Mark McGwire hit 70 to break Roger Maris’ single-season record.

Last Sunday, Pujols began this latest power surge with two homers against the Brewers. On Thursday, he cranked a pinch-hit grand slam, the first of his career, against the Rockies.

When the Cardinals arrived in Arizona -- the site of Pujols’ first MLB home run on April 6, 2001 -- plenty of fans were here to greet them. When Pujols went deep for the second time Saturday, the large contingent of Cards fans sitting behind the visitors’ dugout gave Pujols a raucous standing ovation, with chants of “Al-bert! Al-bert!” ringing through the ballpark.

Bumgarner, who had given up only one previous homer to Pujols -- on Aug. 20, 2010 -- came away impressed with how good the slugger looks in his final chapter.

"I've seen him do it for a long time," Bumgarner said. "I've got to face him the last few years -- and early in my career, too -- and that's probably the best he's ever hit me. I mean, shoot, it would be hard to do much better. It is amazing."

The crowd tried to get Pujols to come out of the dugout for a curtain call after the second homer, but to no avail. Not a problem, though, because there could be quite a few more opportunities for one (or more) to happen over the next 6 1/2 weeks.

The Cardinals have 43 regular-season games to go. Pujols needs to average one homer every 8.6 games to pass A-Rod for fourth all time. He needs one every 5.375 games to reach 700.

“What he’s doing is superhuman,” said first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who hit his 31st homer in the Cardinals' eight-run ninth. “That guy is amazing. You see these stats and he’s passing Hall of Famers. He’s a first-ballot, if not unanimous, Hall of Famer. He’s incredible. Even to do half of what he’s done is an amazing career.”

Amid his pursuit of homer history, Pujols moved up another all-time ranking on Saturday, passing a Cardinals legend. He entered the day third on the AL/NL total bases list, one shy of Hall of Famer Stan Musial (6,134). Pujols is now second with 6,143, trailing only Hank Aaron (6,856).

“Even to be mentioned in the same sentence [as Musial] is just awesome,” Pujols said. “All that he did for this organization was pretty incredible. And taking some time off to serve in the Army and to be able to come back -- I have nothing but respect for him. I’m sure he’s looking down and smiling at me with that big smile that he always shined when he walked into the clubhouse.

“I’m just honored and humbled to be able to share this moment with my family and my kiddos and friends. And the fans, they’re enjoying it.”