Pujols launches long ball No. 30
Slugger joins elite group with lofty sum before All-Star break
ST. LOUIS -- When Albert Pujols does something even he has never done before, you know it's special.Pujols cranked his 29th and 30th home runs of the season on Tuesday night in the Cardinals' 6-3 loss to the Giants, marking the 32nd time in Major League history a player has reached 30 homers before the All-Star break and the first time for Pujols. The last player to do so was Alex Rodriguez, who had exactly 30 at the break in 2007. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the 10th time in history (by seven different players) a player has hit his 30th home run before July 1, and the first since 2001, when Barry Bonds and Luis Gonzalez both did so. Pujols has now hit at least 30 home runs in each of his nine Major League seasons, extending his record for consecutive 30-homer seasons to start a career. "It's a great accomplishment," Pujols said. "But my job is to go out there and to do everything that I can to help my team out to win every night. And obviously it hasn't happened over the last couple of games here." With no outs and the bases empty in the fourth inning, Randy Johnson tried to get a high chase from Pujols with an 0-2 fastball and instead just left the pitch up in the strike zone. Pujols destroyed the ball, hitting it 445 feet to left field -- onto the stairwell that sits behind and to the right of the "Big Mac Land" sign at Busch Stadium. Were it not for the stairwell, the ball might well have left the ballpark entirely. "I think the ball will probably be landing sometime shortly," Johnson quipped after the game. Two innings later, Johnson left a 1-1 slider over the middle of the plate and up a little bit, and Pujols throttled that pitch as well. The second shot went 386 feet and gave Pujols his seventh multihomer game of the year and the 30th of his career. They were the fourth and fifth home runs of Pujols' career against the Hall of Fame-bound lefty. Pujols is 11-for-24 against Johnson all-time.
30 homers through June 30
|Albert Pujols became the seventh player to hit 30 home runs by the end of June. Listed below are the 10 instances in which a player has accomplished the feat, with his home run total through June 30 of that year.|
|1998||Ken Griffey Jr.||Mariners||33|
|1994||Ken Griffey Jr.||Mariners||32|
|Source: Elias Sports Bureau|
"He's pretty aggressive, and I'm an aggressive hitter," Pujols said. "Randy is a veteran guy. He's going to come after you, and he's going to bring his best stuff. And you're going to have to bring your best stuff too. It's amazing the kind of shape that he has been in for the rest of his career. What is he, 45, 46 years old? And still the way that he's pitching. To do what he has done in this game is just an unbelievable accomplishment."To top it all off, Pujols made a circus catch on a ball in the top of the ninth inning. Bengie Molina lofted a popup in foul territory on the first-base side. Pujols chased it, but as he approached the rolled-up tarp, it appeared he wouldn't have a play. He got a glove on the ball, bobbled it, and caught it as he hopped onto the tarp. With 14 home runs in June, Pujols equaled a personal best for a single month. He had 14 in April 2006. And he drove in his 33rd, 34th and 35th runs of June, setting a new personal mark. He had 33 RBIs in May 2006. Those two months were previously the high-water mark for personal accomplishment for Pujols. In the early part of '06, he got off to such a hot start that talk surfaced about him making a run at the single-season home run record. He fell short, but 2006 remains the gold standard for Pujols. And despite his brilliance thus far in 2009, he feels he hasn't reached the heights he did in that season. "To tell you the truth, it might sound stupid and greedy, but in '06, I was pretty locked in those first two months," he said. "I don't think this year I have -- yeah, I've got 30 home runs, or whatever -- but I don't think I have that consistency that I had like I was the first two months in '06. It felt in '06 that every swing that I was taking, I was hitting the ball hard. I was seeing the ball so good. This year, yes, it's been great. It was a great month. So far, great season. But I felt that it's kind of like up and down." So, be afraid, National League. He's the best he's ever been -- and he feels he can get even better.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.