Albert Pujols becomes 32nd player in 3,000-hit club
SEATTLE — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols got his 3,000th hit, reaching the mark with a broken-bat single Friday night against Seattle and becoming the 32nd player in major league history to join the exclusive club.
Pujols dumped the single into shallow right field in the fifth inning against Mike Leake. It came on Pujols’ sixth attempt after getting to 2,999 a day earlier.
Pujols received a standing ovation from the crowd at Safeco Field and was given the baseball and first base as a memento. His teammates all greeted him on the field before action resumed. The Angels won the game 5-0, and Pujols collected hit No. 3,001 in the ninth inning with a two-run single.
“I was really excited, but at the same time you still have a game you need to play and you still need to focus to win that game,” Pujols said. “That’s what I told those guys. Let’s go win that game so it can taste a little better with a win.”
The 38-year-old Pujols nearly got the mark in the first inning, but his hard liner was right at shortstop Jean Segura. Pujols walked on a 3-2 pitch leading off the fourth inning after fouling off four two-strike pitches.
Pujols joined Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez as the only players in baseball history with 3,000 hits and 600 homers. He’s the first player to reach the mark since Adrian Beltre last year against Baltimore.
“I’m aware of the legacy and the people that I tie and am on the same page right now,” Pujols said. “But at the end of the day it’s about winning a championship. Nothing would be more special than in September and October and playing in the playoffs and bringing a championship back to the city of Anaheim.”
Pujols reached the precipice of the milestone earlier this week in Anaheim, getting two hits against Baltimore on Wednesday night — including his 620th career homer — before getting No. 2,999 on a second-inning double Thursday night.
He then came to the plate three times with the chance to hit the mark in front of his standing home crowd. But Pujols couldn’t quite do it, eventually flying out to right and deflating his eager home fans in the eighth inning of the Angels’ 12-3 win.
“Trust me I wanted to do it last night. But it didn’t happen last night. It just happened tonight,” Pujols said.
Ichiro Suzuki reached 3,000 hits in 2016 and also accomplished it on the road. He was in the Seattle clubhouse on Friday night when Pujols joined the club.
“More than the actual 3,000th hit, I remember the week prior,” Suzuki said through a translator before Friday’s game. “We were home for the whole week. I just had pinch-hitting opportunities. Every night was a pinch-hitting opportunity and that was really difficult. I was able to start on the last day of the road trip and getting it then.”
Pujols became the second Dominican player to reach 3,000 hits by joining Beltre. With Suzuki stepping away this week for the remainder of the 2018 season, Beltre is the only active player with more hits than Pujols.
And it may be a while before another player joins the club. The next closest player to 3,000 is Miguel Cabrera, who is more than 300 hits away. After Cabrera is Robinson Cano, nearly 600 hits away from the mark.
Few sluggers in baseball history have been more versatile than Pujols, who joins Aaron as the only players with 600 doubles and 600 homers among their 3,000 hits. He is seventh on baseball’s career homers list after hitting his 600th last season.
Pujols, who was raised in Santo Domingo before moving to New York and Missouri as a teenager, is the sixth foreign-born player to get 3,000 hits along with Suzuki, Rod Carew, Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Clemente, who also had exactly 3,000 hits.
A three-time NL MVP with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols joined the Angels in 2012. Carew and Pujols are the only players to record their 3,000th hit with the Angels.
Pujols is in the seventh season of the lavish 10-year, $240 million contract that persuaded him to leave the Cardinals, with whom he won two World Series, earned nine All-Star selections and established himself as one of the greatest hitters of his generation.
Pujols has been chosen for just one All-Star team and has yet to win a playoff game in Anaheim during his first six seasons in partnership with two-time AL MVP Mike Trout, but these Angels are off to an encouraging 19-12 start.
While he has slowed on the basepaths during the Anaheim chapter of his career, this season also has been rejuvenating for Pujols, who is playing first base regularly after several years primarily serving as a designated hitter. Two-way Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani’s arrival as the Angels’ primary DH has put Pujols in the field, where he remains a capable defender.