In his third at bat of the game tonight in the nation's capital, LA Angels slugger Albert Pujols hit his second home run of the night off Washington Nationals' right-hander Taylor Jordan, connecting for the 499th and 500th home runs of his 14-year major league career...
Before last night, Pujols, 34 hadn't faced the Nationals since he left the St. Louis Cardinals and the National League to sign with the Angels before the 2012 season.
Over the previous 11 seasons, however, in his time with the Cards, Pujols put up a .357/.456/.722 line with 16 doubles and 22 HRs in 65 games and 274 plate appearances against the Expos/Nationals.
In Nationals Park, which opened in 2008, Pujols had posted a 378/.500/1.027 line with 14 doubles and seven home runs in 12 games and 46 PAs heading into the current series in D.C. and he entered Monday night's matchup two home runs short of 500 for his career.
Nationals' Manager Matt Williams was asked on Monday afternoon for his thoughts on Pujols and the veteran slugger's impending milestone, but the former major leaguer and current Nats' skipper said it wasn't the home runs by Pujols that stood out for him when he thought about his career.
"It's not the homers," Williams said. "The 500 homers and beyond, wherever he gets to is not what sticks out to me. What sticks out to me is his ability to hit. So I would refer to him as a 'well-over .300 hitter with power'. Those guys are unique. Really unique. Because generally your sluggers, the guys that have the ability to hit the ball over the fence are more free swingers, but Albert's been -- since the day he got the big leagues -- he's been the consummate hitter, first and foremost. And that's why he's driven in 150 runs. Sluggers don't do that. They hit balls over the fence, but the ability to drive runs in like that is unique."
Williams did, however, admit that 500 HRs was a big number and an impressive total.
"I think it's huge," Williams told reporters. "That's a lot of balls over the fence. It's a lot of them. I think that Albert's one of the great hitters of this generation. And like I said, the ability to not only hit home runs, but the ability to hit .330 and drive in 100+ every single year, that's saying something. That's the ultimate guy you want on your team, because he provides it all. Not to mention Gold Glove-caliber first base defense. He's played third. He's played the outfield. So he's versatile. Everybody thinks of him as a first baseman, but he's played all over the diamond. Wherever Tony [LaRussa] wanted him to play, he'd play. And regardless of where he played and being comfortable or uncomfortable, he hit all the time. So that takes great discipline and that's a great player."
Pujols went 0 for 4 on the night in his first game in D.C. as an Angel on Monday, but tonight in the nation's capital he hit a three-run blast out to left in his first at bat to leave him one home run away from 500. Pujols K'd swinging in his second trip to the plate, but the third time up he took a belt-high 1-2 fastball from Nats' starter Taylor Jordan out to left-center and into the Red Porch seats in Nationals Park where some lucky fan in a gray sweatshirt celebrated catching a piece of baseball history. His 500th was a two-run blast that made it a 6-2 game after five...
Congrats, Albert. 500 HRs.