Rejuvenated Albert Pujols Hits 700th Home Run At Dodger Stadium

st. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his Sept. 10 two-run homer off Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Chase de Jong. 11. Pujols is two homers away from hitting 700 in his career. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

when bat Albert Pujols It caught fire in early August and appeared in St. Louis. When the Lewis Cardinals slugger did the improbable thing of hitting his 700th home run in the 11th hour, Mark McGuire tracked down his old teammate through his MLB app and took as many hits as possible. I started tuning to Pujols at bat.

“Looking at his plate appearances, he looks like he’s 25 again,” Maguire said of the 42-year-old Pujols, who was a Cardinals rookie when he hit the final of 583 home runs in St. Louis. Louis uniform in 2001. “He’s a born hitter.”

However, it wasn’t until August 21 that Maguire returned to Busch Stadium for Matt Holliday’s Cardinals Hall of Fame induction ceremony. How Pujols brought back thunder with his swing in his 22nd and final big league season.

“When I met Albert, I hugged him. It was like when you hug someone you say, ‘Oh, you don’t want to mess with that guy? “When I hug Albert, I say, ‘He’s strong and I’m not going to mess with him,'” he hasn’t lost any strength. “

dodgers When Pujols and the National League-leading Cardinals begin their three-game series at Chavez LaVine on Friday night, fans will get an up-close look at what Maguire and many baseball have done over the past two months.

Pujols hit the 698th home run of his career in a win over the Cincinnati Reds in St. Louis. Louis last Friday night.

Pujols didn’t hit a home run in this week’s three-game series against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, but he had two more long balls to Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth. (714 times). Major player in his league history to hit 700 home runs.

A 700 hit by many Cardinals fans at No. Cent. Pujols won his three NL Most Valuable Player Awards and led the Cardinals to his series titles in 2006 and 2011 at Worlds.

Pujols revived a career many thought was over when the Angels released him in early May 2021 after failing to win a playoff match during his 10-year, $240 million contract. It was here. shot.

Pujols was baseball’s most feared right-handed hitter during his first 11 years in the St. Louis Hall of Fame. Lewis batted .328 with a 1.037 on-base percentage, 445 home runs and 1,329 RBIs, earning him the nickname “The Machine” for his metronome-like rendition.

He hit his 500th and 600th home runs and became his 3,000th hit and 2,000th RBI for the Angels, but several lower body injuries and age made the first baseman lose his prodigious power. , his production plummeted. 758 OPS and averaged 24 home runs and 85 RBIs in nine seasons at Anaheim.

in less than a week he was releasedPujols, then 41 and with 667 career home runs, signed with the Dodgers. World his transition to series contenders, even with fewer roles, seemed to “rekindle his love of the game,” Maguire said. “It set him on fire again.”

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner hugs Albert Pujols after hitting a home run in the Oct. 10 wild card game.  June 6, 2021.

Albert Pujols hugs Justin Turner after Turner’s home run in the Dodgers’ wild card game against St. Louis. Lewis Cardinals in October June 6, 2021. (Robert Gautier/Los Angeles Times)

254 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 85 games for the Dodgers, including .953 OPS against lefties, and affectionately called him “Tio Albert” as a mentor to his new teammate. and solicited his bear hug at the bargain.

Dodgers third base coach Dino Ebell, who coached the Angels from 2006 to 2018, said, “I saw another Albert when he came here last year. He came here, He was happy, he was a different man.

“He knew his role. He embraced his role. The team bought him. He embraced the system, the culture. I think it made a difference in how his career ended.”

Pujols receives regular text messages and FaceTime calls from his former Dodgers teammates with words of encouragement as he hits the 700-mile mark and looks forward to reconnecting with them this weekend. .

Pujols said of his stint with the Dodgers, “It was awesome. Playing there for five months, the energy of the fans and the way the organization treated me with respect and honor was really special. And the playoffs.” To get back to…the place was electric. I think that really helped me come back and play another year.”

When Pujols signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract to return to St. Louis. Lewis was seen as something of a gesture of goodwill by the Cardinals last March, so the local icon got a few plate appearances against the left-handed pitcher, leading Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright, 41. and Yadier Molina on a farewell tour. 40.

Pujols, who was demoted to the platoon’s designated hitter and pinch hitter role, had long odds of hitting the 21 home runs needed for 700. Age and injuries took their toll. Pujols has hit 21 or more home runs in the past five seasons.

His lukewarm start to 2022 has not ignited many hopes. Pujols posted a season-low average of . 189, OPS.

But a legacy selection to the All-Star Game on July 19 and an amazing run to the semifinals. home run derby At Dodger Stadium, fellow All-Stars involved him in a group hug during the Derby, apparently rejuvenating Pujols.

Pujols got warmer in late July and took off in early August. 38 games from August. 10, Pujols has a .313 batting average (35-of-112), 1.071 OPS, 12 home runs (third-most in baseball in that span), 29 RBIs, and a season average (.261) and OPS (.845). ) was pushed higher. 285 in his first year with the Angels.

“It was a feel-good story for him to be back in St. Louis, and I don’t think anyone expected it,” said Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman. “And he had so much energy in the All-Star Game. It was so cool to see him so young and doing derbies and stuff like that. There was a little spark for him.”

Fellow All-Stars pay tribute to Albert Pujols, 5, during the Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium on July 18, 2022.

Fellow All-Stars pay tribute to Albert Pujols, 5, during the Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium on July 18. (Gina Ferrazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Pujols has always beaten left-handed hitters — his career averages are .301 and .954 OPS, and this season he’s batting . It’s hard to get the bat “out of the lineup,” said Cardinals bench coach Skip Shoemaker.

Shumaker, a former utility man who played for Pujols from 2005 to 2012, said the origins of Pujols’ home run barrage go deeper than the derby. It may have been a 102.5 mph lineout to left field against Braves lefty Will Smith in the seventh inning of a July 7 game in Atlanta.

“He went back into the dugout and said, ‘Man, I think I’ve found something,'” Shoemaker said. Something clicked where it felt like I was back in the 2010 era.

Pujols’ August OPS of 1.224 was the highest of any baseball player with 65 or more plate appearances. 803 slugging percentage for the month was his third time in his career to have a . 800 or better slugging percentage in a calendar month.

He hit 5 home runs in 5 consecutive games from August. At 14-20, his march to 700 turned into a sprint and an All-Star break in his break saw him half a game behind Milwaukee in the NL Central pushing for a team that put him at 7 and he was 1/2 of his game. I accelerated to the lead.

“I don’t know how many games we would have won in August without him,” Wainwright said. “We have one No. MVP candidate. [Paul Goldschmidt] And no. 2 MVP Candidates [Nolan Arenado] In our team, Albert carried us. He was one of the biggest reasons we took a big lead in the division. “

Pujols, who is six years older than the Cardinals’ first-year manager Oliver Marmol, initially sneered at questions about the second-half power surge.

“Power surge? OK, I guess I didn’t have power, so I had to look for something,” Pujols said on the Padres series. [changed]As I’ve always done for 23 years as a pro, I worked my spring training swing into the season knowing if I could trust my process.

“I don’t know why it took so long. I think God has a way to turn things around. But for me, I really want to repeat the same swing I’ve been doing my whole career I just did.”

Although Pujols’ run in the 700 was overshadowed by New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge’s pursuit of the Triple Crown and building what could be the greatest single-season offensive performance in baseball history. , in no way undermines Pujols’ achievements.

There are about 22,800 players in the big leagues, but only three in the 700 club dedicated to professional baseball.

Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols pointed at the sky after hitting a home run on Aug. 30 against the Diamondbacks.  20.

Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols pointed at the sky after hitting a home run on Aug. 30 against the Diamondbacks. 20. (Matt York/Associated Press)

“I don’t chase numbers — I didn’t chase 100 [homers]and I have 698 of them,” Pujols said. [World Series] Ringlouis of the Holy City and our fans. That’s why I re-signed this year. “

The Cardinals have 11 games left, with the final six facing the bottom-placed Pittsburgh Pirates. If Pujols finishes the season with 698 or 699 homers, there will be no attempt to reach 700 in 2023.

The car will be shut down this winter, despite the late numbers being “amazing for a 42-year-old” admitted by Wainwright. Pujols said in March that this would be his last season, and reiterated this week that his plans have not changed.

“You have to go with your heart. I think that’s why I said that in spring training, because I knew things like this were going to happen. If I had a good year or had success. , it’s going to change me, ‘take care,’ said Pujols.

“But when I say something, I do it. So when the World Series is over, I’m going to retire, and I’m going to enjoy my life, my career, my family, and everything I’ve accomplished in this game. ”

This story originally appeared los angeles times.

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