Could Albert Pujols hit 700 home runs?

Albert Pujols’ dream of hitting 700 home runs in his career has hardly been a secret. Even as his career faded badly with the Angels and any hopes of surpassing Barry Bonds for the career record were completely dashed, the opportunity arose to do what Alex Rodriguez failed to do by becoming the fourth player to join the 700 homer. baseball club. distant, but not impossible, coda for a great career.

A stint with the Dodgers at the end of last season revived Pujols, who appeared to be enjoying life in baseball for the first time in years. And a return to St. Louis for a final run with the Cardinals continued those good vibes this season.

“I’m the grandpa in this clubhouse,” Pujols said recently. “I’m having a great time.”

But on July 4, any hope of reaching 700 seemed to be running out. An 0-for-2 appearance against Atlanta that day lowered his batting average for the season to .189. He had just four home runs in 82 team games, leaving him at 683 for his career.

Seventeen home runs in 80 team games may not have seemed an insurmountable goal for a player who has 14 30-homer seasons on his resume. But his part-time status and poor performance at the plate made it seem like Pujols’ farewell tour — he and catcher Yadier Molina are being honored in their final game in nearly every road city — was almost entirely ceremonial.

Then something changed. Whether he felt healthier, improved his odds or kicked some sort of despair will be left to the biographers to find out, but since that July 4 0-fer, Pujols has found his old Cardinals form. In a 28-game period through Sunday, he hit .408 with a .459 on-base percentage and .829 slugging percentage. On Monday, he and Paul Goldschmidt, his Cardinals teammate, were named National League teammates of the week.

During Sunday’s games, Pujols’ batting average led all players since July 5 (at least 80 at bats), but more importantly, he hit nine homeruns, taking him to 692 for his career.

“That’s the hard work I’ve put in day in and day out,” Pujols told reporters after he homered twice in a win on Saturday. “Nothing surprises me.”

During the hot streak, Pujols passed Stan Musial for No. 2 on the career list for total bases—he now follows only Hank Aaron—and he racked up a couple of two-homer games. Along with another two-homer game in May, Pujols owns three of the 12 multiple-home games ever recorded by a player age 42 or older.

It’s reached the point where almost every game seems to have Pujols climbing on some sort of career or age-based list. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted eight such cases just out of Saturday’s game.

All of this leaves Pujols just five home runs short to pass Rodriguez (696) for fourth on the career list and eight to reach 700 for his career, with 40 Cardinals games left this season.

To be clear, the odds are still stacked against him. With his effectiveness mostly in at bats against left-handed pitchers, and his age and various ailments limiting his playing time even beyond that, he can’t afford anything that resembles a slump. And while he’s been so hot in the past two months, he’s also had some extreme droughts this season, playing more than 30 team games between home runs twice. So the most likely outcome is still Pujols frustratingly lagging behind both Rodriguez and 700.

But for Cardinals fans, a final look at Pujols in something akin to his vintage scoop should be satisfying, especially since the hot streak coincided with St. Louis overtaking the Milwaukee Brewers for the division lead in the NL Central.

The only thing that could topple Pujols find a way to make the 700 would be another extended postseason run for the slugger and his original team. After all, Pujols led the Cardinals to two World Series titles when his eventual passing of Babe Ruth, Aaron and Bonds on his career’s home run list seemed a foregone conclusion.

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