ST. LOUIS — Albert Pujols reunited 40-plus hours before taking off at the event and finally crushed his 695th career home run Sunday, setting off a special sensation that floated through the humid air at Busch Stadium. .
That pleasant feeling was full of anticipation. In the waning days, tension builds and urgency increases. It was full of enthusiasm, and Pujols — a man who doesn’t miss much these days — felt deep in the core of his power hitting.
In Friday’s one-sided win over the Cubs, Pujols walked into the dugout late in the crowd to a wave of energy from the Busch Stadium crowd. It was then that the 42-year-old Cardinals legend first realized his record-tying home run pursuit had shifted into another gear in terms of passion, intensity and urgency.
“These fans have powered me through my 12-year career, including the playoffs, but Friday felt different,” Pujols admitted after Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Cardinals. “When I came in and pinch hit on Friday [Sean] Newcomb, I felt something different. I don’t know what it is but I felt it. I shared it with my family, and I shared it with my kids here and I was like, ‘Wow, this was different.’
That same vibe returned Sunday when Pujols emerged from the dugout to pinch hit and deliver a clutch delivery. Called up in the bottom of the eighth inning, Pujols hit a home run to help the Cardinals beat the Cubs. The 429-foot blast projected by Statcast pulled Pujols within a home run of Alex Rodriguez for fourth time and the number on his back — 5 — from the rarefied air of 700 home runs.
Not only did Pujols extend his all-time record by striking out 451 pitches, but Chicago’s Brandon Hughes has been terrorizing him for decades — in this example — grinding out a long ball on his final swing against the rival Cubs. The credit games with the Cubs come with the debt on his chest in 1997 – Pu jjomms 59 home runs, 99 extra base hits and 149 RBIs. A day after his best friend and teammate Yadier Molina tormented the Cubs with two hits and three RBIs, Pujols took a step forward with an impressive outburst against the Cubs bullpen.
“I suppose it’s all right for your last at-bat with the Cubs?” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. Later, Marmol talked about Pujols’ rare pressure and ability to resist expectations of white-hot intensity and deliver in big moments.
“There are times when you can take a step back from being locked into the game and be a fan for a minute and practice it the way everyone else does, and this was one of them,” Marmol said. “Take a moment and take it all in because what he’s doing is absolutely incredible.”
As the Cardinals swept the Cubs for the second straight time at Busch Stadium, winning for the 18th time in their last 20 home games, other St. Louis players seemed to recognize the magic of what was happening among Pujols. And a fan who adores him. Tommy Edman, who doubled before Pujols’ game-winning home run, wondered why the fans called him a strike before realizing that Pujols had come out of the dugout to pinch hit. Then, starting pitcher Miles Mikolas — who had been outstanding as he allowed just two hits and walked one scoreless in eight innings — was in the dugout.
An unidentified teammate looked out and asked, “What was that big cheer?”
Mikolas: “Oh, Albert went up in a circle on the deck.
Unidentified teammate: “Oh, okay, that makes sense.
Late Sunday, after the Cardinals swept the Cubs 13-6 in the season series, Pujols admitted it was a late-season delight — both in terms of his power hitting and a late game in St. Louis. — helped him carry his emotions. Pujols can be a blessing and a curse as he tends to do too much trying to play with the crowd, but he is a willing passenger on this emotional wave.
“That’s why these fans are the best fans in baseball,” Pujols said. “To be able to do that and share that moment is pretty special.” [the fans]. For sure, I wanted to do something special, and that can be your worst enemy because you try to do too much. At the end of the day, knowing what you have to do, hunting the field you want and not trying to do too much – the nights doing it and enjoying it, that’s what I love the most. “