The Angels first baseman became the first major leaguer to hit his 499th and 500th homers in the same game, driving in five runs to help Los Angeles beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 Tuesday night.
The three-time NL MVP connected twice off Taylor Jordan (0-3) -- a three-run homer in the first inning and two-run drive in the fifth -- to become the 26th player in big league history to reach the milestone.
"It tastes better with a win," Pujols said. "I knew this year, it was going to happen, whether it was tonight, tomorrow, two months from now. So my goal was just to prepare myself every day to try to help this organization win."
Pujols is the first player to collect his 499th and 500th homers in the same game, according to STATS. About three months past his 34th birthday, he's also the third-youngest to get to 500; Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx were both 32.
Making a quick recent surge, Pujols has eight homers this season, all in the past 13 games. His five RBIs on Tuesday gave him the team lead with 19.
"The homers he's hit this year, they've been long ones. He's squaring balls up," Angels outfielder Mike Trout said. "That's the Albert I'm used to seeing. Full, healthy, 100 percent healthy."
The 500th homer went to left-center field at Nationals Park, on an 89 mph pitch with the count at 1-2.
"To have more than 19,000 players who wore a big league uniform and to have only 26 players to do this, it's pretty special," Pujols said.
Pujols clapped his hands together a few strides before trotting home, then pointed both index fingers to the sky. As soon as he touched the plate, Pujols was greeted by his Angels teammates, who streamed over from the visiting dugout.
"I was pretty emotional running the bases," Pujols said.
Fans gave Pujols a partial standing ovation, and he acknowledged the spectators by tipping his red batting helmet as he approached the dugout. After heading down the steps, he came back out for a curtain call.
After the game Pujols took to Twitter to thank the fans:
Thank you to all of my fans for the well wishes on my HR#500. I thank The Lord for you, & your support over the years. May God bless you all
- Albert Pujols (@PujolsFive) April 23, 2014In other at-bats Tuesday, Pujols struck out swinging in the second inning and grounded to shortstop in the seventh.
Tyler Skaggs (2-0) gave up two runs in seven innings for the win. Jordan allowed six runs and eight hits in five innings. Washington entered the game with a majors-worst 22 errors and third baseman Anthony Rendon added two to that total.
After a couple of down-for-him years with the Angels following 11 transcendent seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, a healthier Pujols appears ready to reclaim his spot among the game's elite hitters. He homered Friday and Saturday in games at the Detroit Tigers to lift his career total to 498, and now he's reached the round number of 500 -- a total that remains hallowed despite losing its luster in recent years because so many players have surpassed it.
Of the 26 members of the 500-homer club, 11 have reached the mark in the last 15 years, according to STATS. Gary Sheffield was the most recent player to do it, hitting No. 500 on April 17, 2009.
Tom Sherrill, an Angels fan who caught Pujols' 500th home-run ball, gave it back to the slugger after the game.
"It went so far up that I just turned around and hauled [my butt] up the stairs and it worked out," Sherrill told the Washington Post. "There was another guy there named Chris, he was running down the stairs. We kinda squared each other up. It bounced off of him and into my hands."
Sherrill told the Post he was given a team baseball cap, a chance to meet Pujols in the clubhouse and an autographed ball.
Another fan, Roy Kirkley, also from California, also returned No. 499 to Pujols.
The Cardinals selected Pujols in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, with the 402nd overall selection -- a steal if ever there was one. Pujols stormed onto the scene as a 21-year-old rookie in 2001, hitting .329 with 37 homers and 130 RBIs.
He won a batting title in 2003, National League MVP awards in 2005, 2008 and 2009, and World Series titles with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. Pujols was the first player to hit 30 homers in each of his first 12 seasons and the second -- after Al Simmons in 1924-34 -- to reach 100 RBIs in each of his first 10.
A nine-time All-Star, Pujols hit 455 homers with the Cardinals.
So many power hitters of this era, have come under suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs. Earlier this year, radio host and former Cardinals player Jack Clark apologized for and retracted comments he made in 2013 implying that Pujols used steroids. Pujols sued Clark for defamation in October.
After his decade-plus of excellence in St. Louis, Pujols signed a 10-year deal worth $240 million with the Angels following the 2011 season. Almost immediately, the 6-foot-3 slugger appeared to be slowing down. He hit .285 with 30 homers in 2012 -- impressive numbers for most players, but career lows at that point for Pujols.
Things got even worse in 2013. Injuries limited Pujols to 99 games, and he was sidelined from July 26 on. He ended up hitting .258 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs.
But not surprisingly, Pujols' bat did not stay quiet for long.
Sitting at a news conference with the balls he hit over the fence Tuesday resting near his left elbow, Pujols smiled as he said: "Now we've got to start on the next milestone, I guess."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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