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Red-hot Pujols mashes 698th career home run

10: 48 PM ET

  • Jesse RogersESPN Staff Writer

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      Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for ESPN.com.

ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 698th career home run Friday night in a 6-5 make an impression on the Cincinnati Reds.

With one out in the sixth inning, Pujols, 42, swung at the initial pitch from reliever Raynel Espinal, an 84 mph slider, and launched a 427-foot shot out to left field. The two-run shot on Friday tied the score at 4-4.

The crowd had been on its feet in anticipation, and Pujols rounded the bases to a significant cheer.

“I was just searching for a good pitch going to,” he said. “I put the very best swing on the night time [on it]. Actually … my last one I thought was gone, too, but obviously as you guys know this place, this place is tough.”

Pujols was discussing a deep fly ball in the seventh that has been caught at the warning track, just missing No. 699. In accordance with ESPN Stats and Information, the ball could have been out in 12 other ballparks.

Pujols is fourth on the all-time home run list, trailing only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).

His second-half homers have coincided along with his team’s surge in the standings. The Cardinals, who at the All-Star break were a half-game behind the Milwaukee Brewers for first in the NL Central, now lead the division by 7 1/2 games.

“Most of his homers are meaningful at this time,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.

Friday night’s homer, which had an exit velocity of 106.3 mph, was Pujols’ 19th of the growing season, the second-most in a season for a new player 42 years or older. He’s got 12 home runs since Aug. 10, one behind Aaron Judge and Eugenio Suarez for probably the most in MLB over that span.

“Before the All-Star break I started swinging the bat well,” Pujols said. “Earlier in the entire year, I was hitting the ball hard, just no luck. I was hitting the ball over 100 mph and right at people. You obtain frustrated. You need to keep trusting the procedure and effort and know it will change.

“If it generally does not change you’re in big trouble. Things have turned around in my own favor. I thank God for that.”

Pujols includes a six-game RBI streak, his longest since 2017. He upped his career total to 2,203 RBIs, moving him within 11 of Ruth for second in history. Aaron holds the record at 2,297.

“It’d be a very important factor if he’s just chasing it, however the thing is, he’s taking a fantastic approach and delivering whenever we require it most,” Marmol said.

The house run overshadowed Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley‘s ninth inning, when he struck out three Reds batters on nine pitches to attain the sixth immaculate inning in MLB this season.

Pujols isn’t more likely to start both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday because the Cardinals have three home games left before a West Coast trip. Huge crowds, including over 47,000 on Friday, have recently come out all week to see him. He didn’t disappoint as he inched another homer nearer to the 700 club.

“I’m just so thankful and grateful and blessed to be back here and finish my career where it started,” he said.

“And having an excellent year.”

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