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Albert Pujols needs two more home runs to join one of the sport’s most exclusive fraternities – 700 Home Run Club.
The 42-year-old hit his 698th career home run on Friday night. The blast also built St. Louis Cardinals4-4 game against the Cincinnati Reds.
The pressure of 700 didn’t even come close to affecting Pujols. In fact, he is thriving at the moment.
Entering the season, Pujols needed 21 homers to reach the feat. Ever since Barry Bonds did September 17, 2004. Given Pujols’ subpar play in recent years (a .700 OPS since 2017 and an average of 18 homers per season over that span with the Angels and Dodgers), it seemed somewhat unlikely.
But since mid-July, he has been one of the best hitters in baseball.
In his last 47 games, he is a .324 hitter with 15 home runs, 35 RBI and a 1.086 OPS. Along that stretch, he has raised his average from .198 to .264 and his OPS from .624 to .865.
These last several homers were also clutch. Five of his last six home runs have tied a game or given the Cardinals a lead. His 697th on Sunday was a two-run shot that gave the Cards a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning. Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cardinals are 17 games away from hitting two homers. If he continues his current pace from July 10 for the final homestretch, he will complete 703 career Home runs.
Where Pujols seemed to have only an outside shot at achieving this goal, it would now seem surprising if he didn’t.
In the final play of Friday’s game, Pujols came up just shy of 699, but it flew into the warning lane. It would have been a home run 10 other grounds.
The Cardinals won the game 6-5, and Ryan Helsley pitched the save with a flawless inning.
Pujols isn’t the only one making Cardinal chasing history this year. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina broke the all-time MLB record Most start with a battery. Wainwright threw the first pitch of a game for the 325th time in his career.
Pujols will retire at the end of the year along with Molina. Wainwright has not publicly announced his plans beyond this season.
When Pujols signed with the Cardinals in the offseason, it appeared to be nothing more than a formal farewell tour, ending his career right where it began.