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Pujols and Nats alike savor milestone homers

Apr 22, 2014, 11:55 PM EDT

AP AP

Updated at 11:55 p.m.

Some around the baseball world recently had been questioning whether the significance of 500 home runs had diminished, especially in the wake of the steroid era.

Try telling Albert Pujols what he accomplished Tuesday night at Nationals Park wasn’t significant. The veteran slugger understands the magnitude of what he just did, becoming only the 26th player in baseball history to join the 500 club with a pair of blasts in the Angels’ 7-2 win over the Nationals.

“To have over 19,000 players who wear a big-league uniform, and to only have 26 players,” he said, “is pretty special.”

The crowd of 21,915 at Nationals Park certainly appreciated it, offering a standing ovation and then eliciting a curtain call from Pujols, who couldn’t remember ever being coaxed out of the dugout in a road game, or having teammates waiting for him at the plate following a mid-game home run.

“It was crazy,” he said. “I was pretty emotional running the bases. When I hit third, I pointed to the sky and I look at all these guys coming up. It was hard, but I just told them we had a game to win. We need to go out there and try to win. It’s just hard, because you don’t want to disrespect the other ballclub.”

The Nationals felt no disrespect, only admiration for a player universally lauded as perhaps the sport’s greatest right-handed hitter since World War II.

“Of course,” manager Matt Williams said. “It’s a huge milestone in the grand scheme of baseball. 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’d do it against someone else.”

Pujols entered the series sitting on 498 homers and was kept in the ballpark Monday night, but he wasted no time joining the record book on Tuesday. The 34-year-old first baseman crushed a first-inning homer off rookie Taylor Jordan down the left-field line to give his Angels an early 3-0 lead.

Jordan managed to strike Pujols out the following inning but couldn’t contain him in the top of the fifth. Pujols belted a waist-high sinker just to the right of the visiting bullpen at Nationals Park, a titanic blast that gave the Angels a 6-2 lead.

“I left a pitch up,” Jordan said. “First inning he hit a change-up. 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, and 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 left it over the middle of the plate.”

Umpires began using a special MLB-authenticated baseball after Pujols hit his 499th homer, trying to ensure nobody would falsely claim to have caught the historic blast when it happened. Turns out the fan who corralled No. 500 near the picnic tables in the Red Porch area of the ballpark had no intention of profiting from his good fortune.

Staff Sergeant Tom Sherrill of the United States Air Force, a Southern California native and Angels fan, wound up with the ball in his possession and offered it back to Pujols, seeking nothing in return. Sherrill and his family did get to meet the three-time MVP after the game and pose for photos.

Though Pujols didn’t reach the milestone in his home park in Anaheim, he appreciated the fact home run No. 500 came in the same ballpark where he hit No. 400. On Aug. 26, 2010, the then-Cardinals first baseman took Jordan Zimmermann deep to right-center for that milestone homer.

“To be able to do it in the same park that you hit 400, and to say that you reached two milestones like that – 400 and 500 – it’s pretty special,” he said.

On this night, the accolades were universal, the result of the game taking a backseat to one mighty impressive individual feat.

“I can respect it, that’s for sure,” Nationals right fielder Jayson 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.”

  1. janebeard - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    I think it’s pretty awesome that our fans gave Albert a standing O. That would never have happened in Philly, and maybe not in a bunch of other ballparks.

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:33 PM

      +1

    • Eric - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:22 AM

      Agreed.

    • Section 222 - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:49 AM

      In Atlanta they would have thrown trash on the field. :-)

      • Hiram Hover - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:16 AM

        In Atlanta, Fredi would have wandered out on the field in preparation for a challenge. Then gotten the thumbs down from the dugout 2 minutes later and wandered back.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:21 AM

        I suppose it goes without saying that McCann would have blocked the plate. Oh, wait. I just said it.

      • Section 222 - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:44 AM

        ha! wish i had thought of that one.

    • laddieblahblah - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:45 AM

      No one can say the Nats fans are not classy.

      Congratulations Mr. Pujols. My preference is that you had done it as a Cardinal, instead of as an overpaid Angel. Cards fans are the classiest of them all.

  2. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:44 AM

    Game is over… So I can finally say Congrats Pujols…

  3. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    Who was it last season, who had a high ERA but it was mainly all due to long balls? Was it Taylor Jordan or Nate Karns?

    • therealjohnc - Apr 23, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      Karns was gopher-prone last year. The thing that a lot of scouts and sabermetric types liked about Jordan is that he has been homer-averse for essentially his whole career. But with his velocity down a bit and his pitches staying up in the zone he has certainly been making up for lost time.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:33 AM

    Did you hear about the young man from the Air Force who caught #500? He wanted nothing in return for the baseball. They gave him a cap and 4 tickets to a game.

    I hope Albert does the young man a solid as the fan probably makes $40,000 a year and I would estimate that baseball was worth in auction $50,000 to $100,000.

    • laddieblahblah - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:42 AM

      Very classy fan and a member of the military, as well. Let’s see if Albert is as classy as that unselfish young man.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:56 AM

        You would hope as it was a very classy gesture. It’s not like finding a wallet as I saw someone on another post use that as an analogy. The ball is the property of the person who catches it. I own several significant HR balls and have a fairly good idea of what the value is.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:23 AM

        Yeah. very classy of him… Really hope Pujols shows his gratitude and appreciation…

        The guy who turned in the money, he is good. LOL… My personal bills would have had me really thinking of walking away $1000.00 richer… But karma is a b—h… so he did the right thing!
        :)

  5. micksback1 - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:16 AM

    Let me begin by saying Pujols is impressive from the standpoint that he looks to be in great shape. He is a winner who takes his craft seriously.

    Wizards made my night and salvaged a terrible night at Nats park. They are young with talent living up to their potential, take note Desmond and others. So much for my friend in here who says Desi should not be benched even for a game because he will miss the hot streak. ha ha ha, what hot streak? Taylor Jordan is terrible and needs to go to single A. We are 11-10, hell the 1971 Senators began 12-8 and almost lost 100 games. I am really pissed at this team and see no difference from the team under Davey. This is not a manager problem, this is talent and a head case problem and it needs to be dealt with in April, not August when its over. I have kept my promise to myself, NOT to post during games and will continue. i am seething still after sleeping on it. If this crap ass baseball continues into June, they are not worth my time or for that fact anyone’s

  6. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    So is McCatty not preparing his pitchers. Seems time and time again, our Nats pitchers cant get out of the 1st inning without it being a clean inning. Idk if they need to take more throwing sessions or what… but this trend is disturbing, to be out scored 25 -6 in the first inning is just embarrassing…

    It was N Karns who I was thinking about who gave up a ton of long balls which made his ERA so high. Taylor J has some things work on when he goes back to the ‘Cuse…

  7. Joe Seamhead - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:27 AM

    We were at the game last night. only two highlights? Ran into NatsJack and Gator and got to witness a career 500th homer live for the first time in my life. [Actually the Star Spangled Banner rendition was pretty good, too].

    This team reminded me of yesteryear. I haven’t felt the crowd that flat, nor seen such a seemingly disinterested attitude from the team since the Riggleman days. I’m feeling more then a little discouraged, but not ready to jump ship, or anything like that.Unlike some, I will wear my hat and continue to come and cheer them It’s just the expectations were pretty high, as was the confidence level coming out of the gate. I felt with the new jockey that this horse was going to set the pace. Instead this horse looks like it’s running in mud.

    Hard to imagine that the Wizards are the best sports team in the DC area right now…sigh…

    gyfng

    ps, I try to keep in mind the injuries to Ramos,Zimm and Fister are taking a huge toll on this team.I keep telling myself, “Self? Relax, it’s going to get better.”

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:47 AM

      I guess Im not upset today becuz I had last night’s game pegged as a loss. I knew Taylor J would come in and leave stuff belt high. He did it last outting too. Just biting my time/tongue until Fister gets back and our Bats come alive.. We are just in a lull right now…

      In June, when we are going thru 1 of our many winning streaks, this game will be an after thought as most of the other losses will be…

  8. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    Harper may be running to 1B but he is lost at the plate and looks disinterested. Some really lousy ABs last night from Harper, Desmond (he’s reverting to type) and Espinosa. When Sandy Leon is your hitting hero you are in really deep trouble.

    Will someone refresh my memory? I’ll swear in ST Jordan was hittting 93 mph; last night the JUGGS gun had him at 91 on a few occasions but mostly 89-90. No bite on the FB. In ST he looked like ROY material; now I am beginning to have doubts he’ll ever be able to get major league hitters out on a consistent basis.

  9. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    Taylor Jordan has demonstrated in 3 straight appearances that he isn’t ready for the big league.. which is a shame since he has that sinker…

    Nothing against Pujols becuz he did what he was supposed to do on HR 499 and 500, but those were the worst pitches Ive seen by Taylor Jordan. Even Stevie Wonder would have been able to hit those meatballs that were served right down the middle like he was playing Tee ball.

    I thought an issue yesterday was that they didn’t have faith in their pitcher. TJ gives up 4 off the break and they come in and chip away… but then he goes and gives up another 2. It seemed like the air was let out of any confidence in a come back..

    It was nice to see Barrett pitch last night (although I didn’t understand why he gets an appearance right there, we may need him soon — seems MW still is learning as he has to learn to manage the BP).

  10. jd - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    Has anyone else noticed that every single one of Atlanta’s starters is pitching great? I’m talking about Harang and Hale and Wood and Santana and Tehran. This is a team that is down 4 pitchers (Minor, Medlen, Beechy and Floyd). Last year Maholm pitched better than he had in years. You have to give props to their pitching coach, you just have to.

    Which brings me to my main point. Do you feel that any of the pitchers Mc.Catty got has outperformed their expected stats? Lets look back: Jackson, Haren,Detwiler. How about Strasburg, Jordan? Do we feel that Gio and JZim are getting better and better? are they consistent?

    After a while when you look at the complete body of work I think Cat who I’m sure is a wonderful human being is getting a pass and I’m not sure it’s deserved.

  11. npb99 - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Don’t overreact to this post, but while Pujols is a great player and 500 HRs is a great milestone, and the fans were classy in applauding him, the Angels were kicking the Nats around in our ballpark. A part of me wishes the fan had thrown the ball back onto the field.

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