Albert Pujols: 400 Home Runs

In 2001 the St. Louis Cardinals, thanks to an injury to veteran outfielder Bobby Bonilla, made the roster move that would identify the franchise as it reestablished itself as the premier team in the National League. As the team broke from Florida and headed North to begin the season, Albert Pujols claimed the final spot on the roster.

It All Begins As opening day arrived, Pujols would find himself making his major league debut, going one for three with a single to left field in his third at bat of the game after flying to deep left field in his second at bat. It would be the third game of the season before Pujols would reach out and drive the first home run of his career. On Friday, April 6, 2001, as the Cardinals played the Arizona Diamondbacks, Pujols would hit fifth in the lineup and play right field. In the top of the fourth inning with Ray Lankford on first base, Diamondback hurler Armando Reynoso would work Pujols into a 1-2 count. After fouling off the fourth pitch of the at bat, Pujols would lift his first home run of his career. The home fun would tie the game at two runs a piece. Pujols would go on to drive in Ray Lankford with a double down the left field line later in the game as the Cardinals would go on to win 12 to 9.

Number 25 The number 25 was reserved by the big red headed man playing first base for the Cardinals when Pujols arrived on the scene. Pujols, who would find that position soon to be his regular home, was still being moved all over the field in 2001. On Saturday, July 28, 2001, the third place Cardinals would find themselves in Chicago playing the first place Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had a young player turning heads on the mound in Kerry Wood and in the fifth inning he would make a mistake on a 1-0 pitch to the Cardinals rookie. Pujols would hit the second pitch of the bat the opposite way for a solo home run, his 25th of the year (and his career, obviously). The Cardinals would win 7-4 to pull within 7 1/2 games of first place.

Rookie Of The Year When the curtains would close on 2001, the Cardinals would win the division and Albert Pujols would bring home the National League Rookie Of The Year Award. On Sunday, September 30, 2001, as the Cardinals played at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pujols would put the nail in the coffin of the competition for the award. In the bottom of the first inning, after Pittsburgh starter Tony McKnight walked J.D. Drew, Drew would still second base. With Drew on second and a 2-0 count, Pujols would launch a home run to left center field. The blast would be the final one of his rookie campaign, number 37 for his young career, and give him 128 runs batted in for the year. The Cardinals would win the ball game, their 90th win of the season and their 5th in a row, by a score of 7-3. Albert would finish the year hitting .329 with 37 home runs and 130 runs batted in. He would play five positions – first and third base, left and right field, and designated hitter – win a Silver Slugger as a third baseman, make his first All Star appearance and finish fourth in the Most Valuable Player award.

Going Home Jose Alberto Pujols would be the name you would find inscribed on a high school diploma from Fort Osage in Independence, Missouri, a stone’s throw from Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City. On Saturday, June 8, 2002, in Kansas City, Pujols would play left field and hit the 50th home run of his career in the fourth inning off of Royals reliever Mac Suzuki. The blast, hit on a 1-0 delivery, would bring home Fernando Vina and Eli Marrero and would be pulled to left field. The Cardinals would go on to win the game 11-3 behind staff ace Matt Morris.

I Love L.A. It was a trip to the left coast that would find our next monumental home run in the Pujols saga, home run number 100. On Sunday, July 20, 2003 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Pujols would drive his 100th home run of his career while still playing a familiar left field for the Cardinals. The hit came in the fourth inning off of Dodger starter Odalis Perez on a 2-2 pitch and Bo Hart on first base. The home run, hit to straight away center field, would put the Cardinals in the lead 8-5 on their way to a 10-7 lead. The Redbirds would remain in 2nd place, three games back of the Houston Astros. They would finish 2003 in third place in one of the closest divisional races in a long time.

Saying Goodbye To The Old Ballyard This walk down memory lane finds a fast forward to September 30, 2005 and one of the last games played at Busch Memorial Stadium and Pujols at his now familiar position of first base. Pujols’ 200th homer of his career would come in grand style in the seventh inning of a game against the Cincinnati Reds. With Skip Schumaker, David Eckstein, and So Taguchi on base, Albert Pujols would step to the plate and take the first pitch he seen to left-center field for a grand slam, one of eleven in his career including milestone home run number 350. The Cardinals would go on to win 12-6 over the last place Reds as they looked to close Busch Memorial Stadium (Busch II) and set to open Busch Stadium (Busch III) the following season.

Providing The Fireworks It was Independence Day, Friday, July 4, 2008, when Albert would hit home run number 300 of his career. In a frustrating game that would see the Cardinals lose to the first place Chicago Cubs by a score of 2-1. The only fireworks from the Cardinal bats on this day would come in the bottom of the 8th inning when Pujols stepped to the plate to face Bob Howry. Pujols would work the count to 2-2 and foul away the fifth pitch of the at bat. On the sixth pitch, Pujols would launch the ball down the left field line to provide the only run for the Cardinals. The team would finish a disappointing 2008 season in fourth place despite Albert Pujols winning his second Most Valuable Player award.

The 47th Player To Hit 400 Home Runs On August 26, 2010, Albert Pujols would become the 47th player in Major League Baseball history to hit 400 home runs in his career. Leading off the top of the fourth inning, Pujols stepped to the plate and took a high curve ball for a strike from Washington Nationals’ right hander Jordan Zimmerman. The second pitch of the at bat was a high and outside fastball that Pujols drove to the opposite field for the 400th home run of his career.

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