ANAHEIM, Calif. — Albert Pujols needed nearly five weeks to tie Willie Mays for fifth place on the career home run list. It took only five days for the Los Angeles Angels slugger to pass him.
Pujols hit No. 661 in the fifth inning on Friday night against the Texas Rangers to break the tie with Mays, then connected again in his next at-bat in the 6-2 victory.
“I knew that whenever it happens, whether it was going to be this year or next year, it was going to happen,” he said. “I definitely wasn’t thinking about trying to hit one out. It happened tonight and look how perfect it worked out. I not only got one, but two on the night.”
The 40-year-old Pujols now trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Alex Rodriguez (696).
Pujols said that he received a text and email from Mays after he tied the Hall of Famer on Sunday in Colorado. Pujols added that he had not checked his phone after Friday’s game to see how many congratulatory messages he had received.
“It is pretty special when you are talking about Willie Mays. What he did on the field is amazing,” Pujols said. “He’s a legend, pretty smart and he knows how to give good advice.”
Pujols had hit just four home runs this season before posting the 60th multi-HR game of his career and first since May 11 last year at Baltimore. He finished with three hits on the night.
Pujols passed Mays with a solo drive to left. Pujols sent a 1-2 fastball from Wes Benjamin into the Rangers’ bullpen. Pujols pointed to the dugout and did a fist pump as he approached third base.
After the Rangers rallied to get within 3-2, Pujols led off the seventh with No. 662 off Demarcus Evans into the Angels’ bullpen to extend the lead.
“I mean, I know he’s not really a home run hitter,” Benjamin said before laughing. “I threw the one pitch I didn’t want to throw. I wanted a fastball up there. It just kind of yanked into the zone just enough and he was prepared for it.”
Pujols has gone deep to left 330 times in his career and 362 have come with the bases empty. He said he is likely to keep the bat he used to pass Mays and that the ball had been retrieved.
Pujols, who has one more season left on his contract with the Angels after this year, has 108 HRs at Angel Stadium, which is only three behind the 111 he hit at new Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006.
Manager Joe Maddon said the only thing missing was having fans in the stands to salute Pujols for reaching the milestone. There was more noise than usual at the ballpark Friday night, along with some cheering, but was because a drive-in concert was taking place in an adjacent parking lot.
“Obviously there’s a high level of satisfaction, but he missed out on the opportunity to have the adulation that people just screaming from the from the rafters,” Maddon said. “It’s too bad. That’s another part of all this. That makes things different but the guys reacted well, Albert typically handled it extremely well.”
The three-time MVP and 10-time All-Star did most of his long-ball damage during his 11 seasons in St. Louis, where he hit 445 before signing with the Angels after the 2011 season.
He had six 40 or more HR seasons with the Cardinals, with his best year being 2006 when he hit 49 homers and drove in a career-high 137 runs.
“He is such a good baseball player,” Maddon said. “So yeah, he hits home runs. We’re not seeing it during his youthful days, but this guy has played this game as well as anybody has.”
Taylor Ward added two hits and an RBI while Anthony Rendon had a two-run double in the eighth for the Angels, who beat the Rangers for only the second time in seven meetings this season. Jaime Barria (1-0) tied a career high in strikeouts with eight and allowed two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Willie Calhoun drove in both runs for the Rangers, who have dropped three of their last four.
Benjamin (1-1) came on in the second after Jimmy Herget was used as an opener for the first time in his career. Benjamin gave up two runs on six hits in four innings with four strikeouts.
New York Post
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