LOS ANGELES — Three innings after he thanked the Dodger Stadium crowd for helping him "bring back the joy" he had has a boy for the game baseball, Albert Pujols brought the game to the brink of one of the rarest celebrations.
Pujols drilled a two-run homer in the third inning for the 699th of his career.
The crowd at Dodger Stadium cheered as if it was a hometown player, and once again on the road Pujols declined the invitation for a curtain call.
He is one homer shy of joining a club that has only three other members.
Pujols' 20th home run of the season came on two-strike fastball from Dodgers lefty Andrew Heaney and it gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in Friday night's game. Heaney is the 455th different pitcher that Pujols' has homered against in his career, and that already is the major-league record.
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The Cardinals' designated hitter had gone a week since hitting No. 698, but the timing of No. 699 could not have been more fitting. It was during his time with the Dodgers in 2021 that Pujols felt his career revitalized. His experience with the Dodgers and their division championship prompted him to stop thinking about retiring at the end of the season and embrace the possibility of returning to the Cardinals.
He is writing a historic final chapter for his 22 year career.
He insists he's not counting.
"History happens whenever it comes," he said Friday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. "I'm not searching."
Only three players in Major League Baseball history have more home runs than Pujols' 699: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and the first member of the 700-homer club, Babe Ruth.
Already the leader in career hits and homers for players born outside the United States, Pujols would be the first Latin player to reach 700.