Angels' Albert Pujols hits 660th career home run, ties Willie Mays for 5th on all-time list

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Monday, September 14, 2020

DENVER -- Albert Pujols hit his 660th career homer Sunday, tying the Los Angeles Angels slugger for fifth on the all-time list with Willie Mays.

With the Angels trailing 3-2, Pujols launched a fastball from Colorado Rockies reliever Carlos Estevez into the empty seats in left field at Coors Field for a two-run drive in the eighth inning.

He was eagerly greeted by his teammates following his first homer since Aug. 4.

"I was just telling them, 'Finally, I hit one in the air,''' Pujols cracked.

The Angels would go on to beat the slumping Rockies 5-3.

A few weeks ago, Pujols received a text out of the blue: "It's your time now. Go get it.''

That meant a lot coming from none other than Mays, the Hall of Famer he was trying to catch.

"To be able to have my name in the sentence with Willie Mays is unbelievable,'' Pujols said. "I'm really humbled.''

Pujols, 40, now trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Alex Rodriguez (696) on the career home run list.

"Everybody knew what was at stake. Everybody knew what was going on,'' Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "It was almost like a walk-off reaction when he hit it. Everybody was thrilled for him.''

The ball was easily retrieved from the stands with no fans to fight over the keepsake -- or celebrate the milestone. Pujols will keep the ball, but his bat went to third-base coach Brian Butterfield, a Mays fan.

The secret to Pujols' prodigious power? He doesn't try to go deep. It's that simple.

"You go out there and try to put a good swing," Pujols said. "Every 660 that I have now, that's what I try to do every time."

Estevez became the 426th different pitcher whom Pujols has taken deep. Only Bonds has homered against more pitchers (449).

It's the latest milestone for Pujols, who hit his 669th career double in the sixth inning Saturday to pass Craig Biggio for fifth on that list.

Pujols said that when he retires he will reflect on all his memorable milestones.

"Because that's when I'm going to have plenty of time to look at what I've done,'' Pujols said. "I know my place in history. I know that because friends and family are always talking to me. I try not to get caught up too much in numbers or records or who's next.''

The three-time MVP and 10-time All-Star did most of his homer damage during his 11 seasons in St. Louis, where he hit 445 before leaving town after the 2011 season. While in a Cardinals uniform, he hit 40 or more home runs six times, with his best season being 2006 when he hit 49 homers and drove in a career-high 137 runs. He left for Southern California at age 32 with a 10-year contract and seemed a lock to join the 700-home run club.

But injuries have slowed his pace later in his career. Pujols has averaged 26 home runs per season over the past eight years with the Angels. His best home run season with the Angels was in 2015 when he hit 40.

Pujols, who has one season left on his contract with the Angels after 2020, has gone deep four times this season.

For a power hitter, Pujols doesn't strike out often. His high was 93 in his rookie season and in 2017. In 2006, he nearly had as many homers (49) as strikeouts (50).

It was his 12th homer at hitter-friendly Coors Field. His most road homers have been at Houston's Minute Maid Park, where he has hit 31.

The pitcher he's taken deep the most often? That would be Ryan Dempster, who gave up eight homers to Pujols.

Rockies manager Bud Black said Pujols' place in history is already secured.

"One of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time," Black said. "There's no doubt about that. There were periods in his career where he amassed statistics that are comparable with the greats of all time.

"Years from now when we talk about Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and you transfer to [the] next generation, the Mike Schmidts and then into the Jim Thomes and more of the modern era, Albert will be in the same conversation with the greats."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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