ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols collected three home runs in the same game four times while with the Cardinals. If you include the postseason, he accomplished the feat five times. And two of the games came at Wrigley Field, against the rival Cubs.
Now, you can watch his first.
Pujols’ three-homer game occurred in the Cardinals’ come-from-behind victory over the Cubs on July 20, 2004. The former Cardinals slugger went 5-for-5 in the Cardinals’ 11-8 win, with his third home run breaking an 8-8 tie in the ninth at Wrigley Field.
Pujols’ feat and stat line from that day are special alone, but they're even more impressive when remembering the context of that summer day in Chicago.
The Cardinals had begun the surge that would take them to 105 wins that year, and they led the second-place Cubs by nine games in the National League Central entering play. Chicago took a 7-1 lead in the second inning against Cardinals starter Matt Morris, and it was 8-2 going into the sixth. Both Cardinals runs had been driven in by Pujols -- an RBI double in the first inning and his first home run in the third off Cubs starter Glendon Rusch.
“This comeback wouldn’t have been possible without me,” Morris said to reporters after the game.
It was Pujols who started the comeback -- and Pujols who ended it. His single to lead off the sixth started a four-run rally, and an inning later, he hit his second homer to bring the Cardinals within one run. That home run came off Kyle Farnsworth.
So Taguchi’s memorable solo homer -- yes, Taguchi, who hit 19 career home runs -- tied the game at 8 in the eighth, and the Cubs went down easily in the bottom of the inning to set up Pujols’ heroics in the ninth.
After Edgar Renteria singled to lead off the ninth inning, Pujols came to the plate to face Cubs reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Pujols watched a ball. And when he tried to execute a hit-and-run, the ball landed over the right-field wall to give the Cardinals the lead. Hawkins was ejected for arguing with the home-plate umpire, and Reggie Sanders added an insurance homer that inning. Jason Isringhausen would go on to notch the save.
“It was the first time I’ve hit three home runs, and it came at the right time,” Pujols said after the game.
To go along with his five hits, Pujols added four runs scored, five RBIs and 15 total bases. The win gave St. Louis a 10-game lead over Chicago with no head-to-head meetings remaining, effectively eliminating the Cubs from the division race. The Cardinals would go on to win the NL pennant.
“The best thing about Albert in a very long list of great things is that he plays the game to win,” manager Tony La Russa told reporters that day.
Relive the epic July 20 game, and if you want to watch the Carpenter contest, it can be seen on MLB.TV. Every single game from the past two seasons is available to stream for free right now.