Angels first baseman Albert Pujols crushed a pair of home runs to reach 500 for his career in a 7-2 win over the Nationals on Tuesday night. Pujols hit both home runs off Nationals starter Taylor Jordan.
“It was a really good swing, a fastball middle up and obviously, probably the best swing I have taken this year so far,” Pujols said. “It came at a good time.”
Although Jordan thought his pitch on Pujols’ 499th home run was a good one, he admitted that he missed his target on Pujols’ 500th home run ball.
“I left a pitch up,” Jordan said. “The first inning he hit a changeup. It wasn’t a bad pitch. I don’t think it was really up in the zone. The 500th home run, that pitch was supposed to be low and away. I guess I tried too hard to get it there.
“We did three consecutive fastballs there. So I was really trying to get that ball where I wanted it, and I left it over the middle of the plate. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make that pitch and I didn’t execute it.”
Nationals manager Matt Williams said that making a mistake is dangerous when pitching to a veteran slugger.
“You make mistakes to somebody like Albert, and you are going to pay for it,” said Williams. “He has been doing that for a long, long time. The first pitch he hit over the fence was a hanging offspeed pitch, which he is paid to do. The second time he got a ball up again.”
Pujols said he had a good feeling, even during pregame, that it could be an extraordinary night. He had hit big home runs at Nationals Park before.
On August 26, 2010 at Nationals Park, Pujols hit career home run No. 400 off of Jordan Zimmermann against the Nationals while with the Cardinals.
“What is so special is to hit 400 here (in D.C.,) and to be able to hit 500. That is something that is pretty special,” Pujols said. “Today, I shared with a couple of guys I was in the batting cage, I had a good feeling it was going to be a special day.”
After the Nats’ loss to the Cardinals, Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth acknowledged the significance of Pujols’ accomplishment.
“I can respect it, that’s for sure,” Werth said. “Albert’s had a great career. You never enjoy seeing other people hitting home runs off you, but that’s a special moment in the game. It’s quite an accomplishment.”
Pujols said he did not think about the milestone too much until the writers started asking him questions about it this season. But an old teammate of his who had experienced hitting a ton of home runs helped him prepare for the moment.
“I was thinking about it because you guys brought it up,” Pujols said. “Something that helped me a lot early in my career was just to block those distractions. Watching Mark McGwire in 2001 after he had his great career, just the way that he every ballpark he went.
“Everybody even paid just to watch batting practice just to see his preparation. It helped me out so much just to make sure I stayed focused what I need to do for the game.”
Pujols did have a good feeling that Tuesday night could be special. But that did not mean he was anxious for the milestone to be passed sooner rather than later.
“I knew this year was going to happen whether it was going to be tonight, tomorrow, (or) two months from now, so my goal was just to try to prepare myself every day to try help this organization to win every night,” Pujols said. “I am going to continue to do that the rest of my career, obviously.
“(It is) pretty special. To have more than 19,000 players who wear a big league uniform and to only have 26 players to do this it is pretty special.”
Pujols said the ultimate goal is that all these home runs will help his team win games. That focus on a championship has been taken the wrong way by some people.
“I always enjoy the game no matter what,” Pujols said. “I take my job seriously. You guys see me every day so serious. I know some time people can read me wrong. Because I feel that when I am at my work, my goal is to get myself ready to help those guys win and accomplish our goal, which is to win a championship.”
Although the home run came in a Nats’ loss, Williams still admired Pujols’ accomplishment.
“It is a huge milestone in the grand scheme of baseball,” said Williams. “You don’t want it to happen against you, for sure. But I admire the man. I admire his ability and the way he goes about playing the game and I have for some time. I just wish he would do it against somebody else. But, yeah, it is a huge milestone.”