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Pujols' 10 most memorable moments

MLB.com @matthewhleach

When you play 18 Major League seasons, appear in three World Series and make 10 All-Star teams, you're going to accumulate some memorable moments. When you sprinkle 3,000 hits and more than 600 home runs over the course of a career like that, there will be even more.

So in celebration of Albert Pujols becoming the 32nd player with 3,000 hits, and just the fourth with that many hits and more than 600 homers (joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez), here's a look at 10 of Pujols' most memorable moments.

When you play 18 Major League seasons, appear in three World Series and make 10 All-Star teams, you're going to accumulate some memorable moments. When you sprinkle 3,000 hits and more than 600 home runs over the course of a career like that, there will be even more.

So in celebration of Albert Pujols becoming the 32nd player with 3,000 hits, and just the fourth with that many hits and more than 600 homers (joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez), here's a look at 10 of Pujols' most memorable moments.

April 2, 2001: Hit No. 1
Even at the beginning, it was clear Pujols was a unique talent. He had spent the bulk of the previous season at low Class A Peoria, but he hit his way onto the roster and into the lineup of a team with World Series aspirations.

Video: STL@COL: Pujols collects his first Major League hit

It took him three at-bats to show he belonged. Batting sixth for St. Louis, Pujols grounded a seventh-inning single through the left side off Mike Hampton in a game the Cardinals lost, 8-0, in Denver. Four days later in Phoenix, he hit his first of 37 homers on the year.

Sept. 20, 2003: Buddy Walk
Down syndrome is a cause dear to Pujols' heart, as his daughter has the condition. And Pujols always delivered on "Buddy Walk" day, a day to raise Down syndrome awareness. In this game, he hit a 13th-inning walk-off homer against Houston's Dan Miceli, ending a game the Cardinals never led before that moment.

By the way, we could also have gone with Sept. 3, 2006, when he hit three homers on Buddy Walk day in a needed win against the Pirates.

Video: HOU@STL: Pujols hits walk-off homer in the 13th

July 20, 2004: The comeback
Few people have had a better day at the plate than Pujols had on July 20, 2004. Maybe not even Pujols himself. Start with the circumstances: Facing their fiercest rivals, the Cubs, the Cardinals fell behind, 7-1. They roared back for an 11-8 win at the Friendly Confines, thanks in large part to Pujols.

Video: STL@CHC: Pujols blasts three homers against the Cubs

He went 5-for-5 with four runs, five RBIs and three homers, capped by a two-run tiebreaker off of LaTroy Hawkins in the ninth. It was the best regular-season game of his career, and it also just about ended the NL Central race, even though the calendar still read late July.

Oct. 17, 2005: The train tracks
If there is one signature moment of Pujols' career, this is likely it. Down to their final out of the season in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series and trailing, 4-2, against lights-out closer Brad Lidge, the Cardinals scraped a couple of baserunners to bring Pujols to the plate. The Astros needed just one out to reach their first World Series, and Minute Maid Park was deafening.

Video: STL@HOU: Shannon calls Pujols' home run in '05 NLCS

They did not get that out. Pujols launched a titanic home run to left field, landing on the train tracks well above the Crawford Boxes, to send the series back to St. Louis for one more game at old Busch Stadium. Houston won that game and advanced, but Pujols did all he could.

Oct. 21, 2006: Getting things going
Pujols' first trip to the World Series in 2004 was quick and frustrating. There was to be no disappointment the second time around. In a series where the Cards were heavy underdogs (one columnist famously predicted "Tigers in three"), Pujols hit a two-run homer off Detroit superstar Justin Verlander in the third inning. It was an opposite-field laser beam that turned a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 lead, and St. Louis never looked back en route to its first World Series title in 24 years.

Video: 2006 WS Gm1: Pujols hits his first World Series homer

July 29, 2011: 2,000 Man
Pujols' 2,000th career base hit came on a memorable day for St. Louis. Two days earlier, the club had made a huge trade, remaking its roster in pursuit of a postseason bid. Edwin Jackson, acquired in that deal, debuted in this game, pitching seven strong innings in a 9-2 home win against the Cubs.

Video: Must C Classic: Pujols tallies his 2,000th career hit

And Pujols? He went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles. The second one capped off the scoring, and it also served as the 2,000th hit of his big league career.

Oct. 22, 2011: No mercy
The 2011 World Series is remembered largely for its amazing Game 6, but some of the earlier games were not so competitive. Take Game 3 in Arlington, which may as well be known as the "Pujols Game."

Video: WS2011 Gm3: Pujols' trio of homers ties Series record

The slugger went 5-for-6 with four runs, six RBIs and a historic three home runs. With his third long ball in the 16-7 win against the Rangers, Pujols joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players in history to hit three homers in a World Series game. That Pablo Sandoval joined the group a year later hardly diminishes the accomplishment.

April 22, 2014: Five-hundred
With a brilliant peak, two rings and three MVP Awards, Pujols' ticket to Cooperstown is likely already punched. But baseball loves round numbers, and there aren't many more special than 500 home runs (save for 600 home runs).

Video: LAA@WSH: Pujols hits a two-run shot for No. 500

He reached the milestone on April 22, 2014, with a monster shot to left-center off of the Nationals' Taylor Jordan. He became the 26th player to reach 500 with his two-run homer.

Aug. 9, 2014: 19 innings
More than 2 1/2 years into his tenure with Los Angeles, Pujols had yet to hit a walk-off home run. So it's fitting that once the game came, he had to wait extra long to get it done. The Angels and Red Sox played a wild game that stretched more than 6 1/2 hours and 19 innings before Pujols finally ended it.

Video: BOS@LAA: Pujols' walk-off homer confirmed in 19th

He did so with a classic Pujols homer, a line drive to right-center field off Brandon Workman. It took an umpires' review to confirm the homer, but once all was said and done, Pujols had his first walk-off homer with the Halos, the 514th homer of his career, and another big contribution in a pennant race.

May 16, 2017: Off the coconut
The White Sox and Angels had gone back and forth for 11 innings of wild, entertaining baseball. Chicago took a 6-5 lead in the top of the 11th, but it didn't last.

Video: Must C Clutch: Maybin ties it, Pujols wins it in 11

Cameron Maybin doubled in the tying run in the bottom of the 11th, and an intentional walk to Mike Trout brought up Pujols. He delivered, in unusual style. He lifted a fly ball to center field that caromed off Leury Garcia's face and bounced away for the winning run. It wasn't pretty, but it was memorable, and it counted all the same.

Matthew Leach is the National League executive editor for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols