Angels’ Albert Pujols hits 660th home run to tie Willie Mays for No. 5 all-time
When he jogged around the bases for the 660th time of his career, this 360-foot trip tying him with one of the all-time greats on baseball’s home-run list, Albert Pujols thrust his index fingers toward the sky, slammed his hands together in a single clap and broke into a wide grin that was equal parts joy and relief.
“I just said, ‘Finally!’ ” Pujols said after tying Willie Mays with his 660th homer on Sunday, a two-run shot in the eighth inning of the Angels’ 5-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field. “I knew sooner or later, whether it was this year or next year, it was going to happen.”
It was much later than sooner. Pujols had not gone deep since Aug. 4 — his streak of 93 plate appearances without a homer his longest since 2014 — when he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with Anthony Rendon on first base and the Angels trailing 3-2.
With a 1-and-1 count, Rockies reliever Carlos Estevez tried to blow an elevated 96.5-mph fastball by Pujols. The Angels slugger wasn’t having any of it. He turned violently on the pitch and sent a towering 402-foot drive into the empty left-field bleachers for a 4-3 lead.
Pujols, 40, has passed a number of Hall of Famers, including Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Thome, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt, during his two-decade ascent up the home run list, winning three National League most valuable player awards and leading the St. Louis Cardinals to two World Series titles along the way.
When the 60-game season unfolds at an unfamiliar rhythm, Albert Pujols’ expertise should provide stability and guidance for the Angels.
But Sunday, he pulled even with a superstar whose bust likely would appear on a Mt. Rushmore of baseball players if such a sculpture existed. Mays, known as the Say Hey Kid, is widely regarded as the best all-around player of all-time, a powerful, speedy and athletically gifted center fielder who, in addition to his 660 homers, hit .302 with 523 doubles, 140 triples, 1,903 RBIs and 338 stolen bases in a 22-year career that ended in 1973.
“Legend,” Pujols said, when asked what Mays means to him. “It’s something you dream about. … it’s amazing to have my name in the same sentence as Willie Mays. It’s just unbelievable, really humbling. It’s something I’m gonna tell my kids, my grandkids.”
Pujols has met Mays, who spent the bulk of his career with the San Francisco Giants, several times. When the Angels were in San Francisco last month, he said he received a text message from Mays that said, “This is your time now, so go get it.”
Pujols was unable to homer in San Francisco, but Sunday’s milestone shot was fairly dramatic, turning a one-run deficit into a one-run lead and making a winner of Andrew Heaney, who escaped a first-and-third, no-outs jam in the sixth en route to a seven-inning, three-run, eight-hit, eight-strikeout, no-walk performance.
“I got goosebumps,” Heaney said. “I’ve seen him set a lot of records and do a lot of really cool things, so you would think at some point you’d kind of become numb to it, but you’re not. When a guy’s tied Willie Mays with 660 homers … that’s something that’s indescribable.”
His 660th homer came in the same stadium Pujols made his major league debut, when he singled once in three at-bats as a Cardinals rookie against the Rockies on April 2, 2001.
Rockies employees retrieved the ball and put it in a glass case for Pujols, who said he will display the memento in his trophy case at home. Pujols gave the home run bat to third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who is a huge Mays fan.
Pujols has homered off 425 pitchers in 38 stadiums. With this season shortened to 60 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Pujols’ 10-year, $240-million contract expiring after 2021, it appears unlikely Pujols will join Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in baseball’s 700-homer club.
Brian Harkins, the former Angels clubbie who was fired in March for allegedly providing illegal substances to visiting pitchers, has filed a legal complaint.
Next on the list would be Alex Rodriguez, who hit 696 homers, but Pujols said he will have no regrets if he doesn’t catch A-Rod.
“It’s far away — I don’t really think about that,” Pujols said. “I never thought about it with my 100th, my 200th and 300th. I never thought about hitting homers, and here I am, sitting on 660. If it happens, if it’s meant to be for me to catch A-Rod or get to 700, it’s going to happen. But I don’t want to force it. … I don’t go out there and try to chase numbers or records.”
All-time home run leaders
Name, HR, AB per HR
Barry Bonds, 762, 12.9
Hank Aaron, 755, 16.4
Babe Ruth, 714, 11.8
Alex Rodriguez, 696, 17.5
Willie Mays, 660, 18.9
Albert Pujols, 660, 18.5
Ken Griffey Jr., 630, 15.6
Jim Thome, 612, 13.8
Sammy Sosa, 609, 14.5
Frank Robinson, 586, 17.1
DiGiovanna reported from Los Angeles.
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