Pujols feels ‘extra special’ after hitting No. 701 at Busch

ST. LOUIS — Even though the 27th sellout crowd of the season jammed inside Busch Stadium to celebrate Albert Pujols joining the 700 home run club last week and watch the final regular-season series of his illustrious career, he said it’s easy to control his emotions because he feels he has plenty more opportunities to play baseball in St. Louis before he retires.

“Hopefully my last game is going to be in November in the World Series,” Pujols said candidly after hitting the 701st home run of his career to help the Cardinals defeat the Pirates 2-1 on Friday. “So, I don’t think about [this final regular-season series]like that. Hopefully, we have a lot of games left.”

Pujols jumped all over a hanging slider from Pirates pitcher Johan Oviedo and hit it 398 feet into the third level of the left-field stands for No. 701. That extended his NL/AL record to 456 pitchers he’s homered against over his 22-year career. Pujols, 42, came into the season trailing Barry Bonds in that category, but he’s since sailed into the lead with a second-half power surge.

Pujols was treated to a standing ovation before the game when he received an engraved golden bat from the Cardinals to celebrate his entry into the 700 home run club. Fans who cheered wildly before each at-bat fell strangely silent seconds before each pitch to Pujols. Then, with thousands of phones thrust into the air to record the moment, they came alive again when Pujols’ blast cleared the wall.

Those fans gave Pujols another curtain call, and he acknowledged it by coming out of the dugout, doffing his helmet and lovingly tapping his chest.

“It’s pretty awesome to get back here because I knew it was going to be like this,” Pujols said. “It’s pretty good to be embraced by the fans like this. This is what I’ve been getting all year, but tonight was extra special after reaching the milestone of 700. It was a great night overall — a night I shared with my teammates, my family that were in the stands and, obviously, we came out with a huge win.”

Pujols’ power has had an enormous impact on the Cardinals, champions of the NL Central who will host the Wild Card Series at Busch Stadium next Friday. They are now 16-1 this season when Pujols homers and seven of his last nine home runs have either tied the game or given the Cardinals the lead. That was the case on Friday, when Pujols’ home run knotted the game at 1-1.

“I like when he hits home runs,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol joked. “We all feed off [Pujols], and it’s big swings in big moments. That’s the whole conversation. It’s not just a homer here and there when we’re down six [runs]or up eight. He’s tying up ballgames or putting you ahead.”