Another HR, another milestone for Pujols: Slugger hits No. 703

PITTSBURGH — Another night, another home run for Albert Pujols and another home run record for the likely Hall of Famer.

Not only did Pujols hit home run No. 703 on Monday night at PNC Park, but it was the 263rd go-ahead home run of the slugger’s career. That go-ahead blast, which broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth inning, pushed Pujols ahead of Barry Bonds (262) for the most in Major League history dating back to 1961, per Elias Sports Bureau. Nine of his past 12 long balls have either tied the game or put the Cardinals into the lead.

That lead did not last as Andre Pallante gave up a tying home run to Jack Suwinski in the eighth inning, and JoJo Romero walked in the deciding run in the ninth as the Pirates claimed a 3-2 victory. Reliever Giovanny Gallegos, who agreed to a two-year contract extension prior to the game, walked the bases loaded to set up the walk-off win for the Pirates. The Cardinals fell to 17-3 this season when Pujols homers, with two of those losses coming the past two nights.

Also, Monday’s home run was the 370th of Pujols’ 22-year career on the road, tying him with Hall of Famer Hank Aaron for second all time in that category. Bonds is the all-time NL/AL leader in that category with 383 road home runs.

“He’s feeling pretty good about where he is and he’s taking some elite swings, and they’ve been meaningful,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “I think we’re past that [stretch when Pujols struggled versus right-handed pitching], and he’s taking good swings regardless of who’s throwing. His approach is good, his swing is good, and we’re getting a really good version right now.”

When Pujols hit a hanging 76.5 mph curveball from Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller for a two-run home run, it extended his record of pitchers he’s homered against to 458. He opened the season trailing Bonds (449), but he has easily blown past that mark with 24 home runs in the 22nd year of his MLB career.

Said Keller of ending up on Pujols’ homer list: “If I was going give one up, I’d rather give it up to him than anybody else.”

Pujols hit the 35th home run of his career at PNC Park. That put him just ahead of Bryan Reynolds for career home runs at PNC among active Pirates players. The next closest home run total at PNC Park among a visiting player is Anthony Rizzo with 17 home runs. The 35 home runs at PNC Park are the most of his career at any visiting ballpark.

Whew, our allergies are acting up over here. pic.twitter.com/yCWHYoqpbC

— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 4, 2022
Pujols has 57 home runs against the Pirates, his third most against any team behind only the Astros (62) and Cubs (59). He has homered seven times this season against Pittsburgh, including No. 701 on Friday, No. 702 on Sunday and now No. 703.

“Like I’ve been saying a lot lately, what Albert Pujols is able to do right now is something marvelous,” said Pirates standout rookie and fellow Dominican Oneil Cruz. “It’s something that’s coming from God above. This amazes all of us and gives us a lot of pride and gives us a lot of hope toward the future. I admire him a lot, and to be able to see what he’s doing, it’s impressive. It’s something that definitely makes an impact in my life and motivates me going forward, as well.”

Pujols became one of just four players in baseball history with at least 700 home runs on Sept. 23 when he hit Nos. 699 and 700 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pujols trails only Bonds (762), Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) all time in home runs.

Pujols, who has announced that this will be his final MLB season, had just two home runs in April and two in May before going homerless in June. However, much like the humid temperatures in St. Louis, Pujols heated up in July and August. He hit three in July, eight in August and seven more in September. He’s added two the past two days in October. The 42-year-old Pujols has hit 18 of his 24 home runs after the MLB All-Star Game.

After struggling early in the season against right-handed pitching, Pujols now has 11 homers against righties and 13 versus lefties. For his career, he’s hit 503 homers against right-handed pitchers and 200 versus lefties.

“It’s an amazing time to be around him and to be around this team,” Cardinals starter José Quintana said of Pujols. “He’s believing in his abilities. What’s even more impressive is as soon as he homers, he’s ready for the next one. There are no limits, and he wants to keep going. That’s really impressive.”