MLB

Albert Pujols launches twice against the Dodgers to bring up 700 career home runs

By Sports Desk September 23, 2022

St Louis Cardinals legend Albert Pujols had a night he will never forget during Friday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, becoming the fourth player to ever hit 700 home runs in their career.

Pujols, 42, came into the contest with 698 homers to his name after an incredible second half of the season, with eight home runs in August and now six more in September after totalling seven combined from the first four months.

He hit number 699 in the third inning from his second at-bat of the contest, crushing a two-run shot 434 feet over the left-field wall – longer than any home run he hit at this year's Home Run Derby.

There was no lengthy wait for 700, as it came in the very next inning. After Dodgers starting pitcher Andrew Heaney was pulled from the game, relief pitcher Phil Bickford got the dubious honour of pitching the memorable homer.

On a 1-1 count, after taking two sliders, the third pitch was another slider that Pujols did not miss, this time with a 389-foot shot to a similar spot in left-field to make the score 5-0. 

But the score was not relevant for his rival fans in Dodger Stadium, who rose in unison with baseball fans everywhere to celebrate the historic moment.

It was a fitting moment for Pujols, who played for the Dodgers last season when it appeared his best days were well and truly behind him, before deciding to go around one more time with the Cardinals, who he spent his first 11 seasons with.

In his past three injury-riddled seasons, Pujols hit 23 total home runs in 148 games. He now has 21 this season from 101 games.

Pujols' 700th home run now leaves him trailing only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) for the most all-time, putting an emphatic exclamation point on one of the best careers in the history of baseball.

Related items

  • 'You only get one career' – Rice says England experience has whetted Champions League appetite 'You only get one career' – Rice says England experience has whetted Champions League appetite

    Declan Rice says performing on the biggest stage for England has only increased his desire to feature in the Champions League in the future, declaring: "you only get one career".

    Rice has started all three of England's games at the World Cup in Qatar, helping the Three Lions top their group at the tournament for the first time since the 2006 edition in Germany. 

    The West Ham midfielder has been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in recent years, and his solid international displays will have done little to reduce interest in his services. 

    Asked whether his desire to reach the top of the club game had increased as a result of his time with Gareth Southgate's side, Rice said: "Yeah, 100 per cent. 

    "For the last two or three years I have been saying that. I have been playing consistently well for [my] club and I feel like I really want to keep pushing.

    "I see my friends here who are playing in the Champions League and for big trophies. 

    "You only get one career, and at the end of your career you want to look back at what you have won and the biggest games you have played in. I am really ambitious."

    Rice has made seven interceptions at the World Cup so far – at least five more than any of his England team-mates, while only Jude Bellingham (18) and Luke Shaw (17) have recovered possession more often than he has for the Three Lions (14).

    England take on Senegal for a place in the quarter-finals on Sunday, having progressed through five of their previous seven last-16 ties at the World Cup (failing to do so against Argentina in 1998 and Germany in 2010).

  • South Korea v Portugal: Sense of revenge could be enough motivation for A Selecao South Korea v Portugal: Sense of revenge could be enough motivation for A Selecao

    It often feels like football works in cycles.

    A few months beyond 20 years since a crunch group tie at the World Cup, South Korea and Portugal are ready to do it all again.

    The Selecao are already through after two wins from two against Ghana and Uruguay, and barring a three-goal turnaround, their progression will come as group winners.

    Head coach Fernando Santos could decide to rotate, but then again, perhaps the smell of revenge will be enough for him to go full strength once more.

    The only previous meeting between South Korea and Portugal came at the 2002 World Cup, which South Korea won 1-0 on home soil in the final game of the group stage, a result that eliminated Portugal from the tournament.

    This time it will be all or nothing for South Korea with only a win being enough, while also needing Uruguay to narrowly beat Ghana.

    Paulo Bento's men have lost five of their last seven World Cup matches (W1 D1), as many as they had in their previous 16 (W5 D6), and are looking to win their third group game for just the third time at the tournament, previously doing so against Portugal in 2002, as mentioned, and in 2018 against Germany.

    The first goal will be especially important as Portugal are yet to lose a match at the World Cup when they have scored first (P18 W15 D3), doing so without losing more than any other nation in tournament history.

     

    Bento will not be present for the game after receiving a red card at the end of the 3-2 defeat to Ghana, furiously reacting to referee Anthony Taylor's decision to blow the full-time whistle after his team had won a corner.

    "We shall continue to prepare in same way as other matches – our strategy will not fail," his assistant Sergio Costa said after that game. "He won't be present on the matchday, which is a loss because Paulo is obviously a great manager, but I think it will bring us together."

    The irony being that Bento played for Portugal in that 2002 humiliation against South Korea. In fact it turned out to be his final game for the national side, before returning as head coach between 2010 and 2014.

    Portugal, meanwhile, are looking to win all three group-stage matches for just a third time, also doing so in 1966 and 2006.

    If Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. can do so while also ending South Korea's tournament, there will likely be a sense of payback to go with it.
     

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    South Korea – Son Heung-min

    Son was always going to be the main man for his country, but so far the Tottenham attacker has been unable to show his true worth in Qatar.

    He has been a generational talent for his country, though. Since the start of the 2010-11 campaign, Son has scored more goals in Europe's top five leagues than any other South Korea player (137).

    Son also had the most shots (40), shots on target (19), scored the most goals (5) and created the most chances (27) of any player for South Korea during qualifying.

    Portugal – Bruno Fernandes

    While most eyes have been on Ronaldo, as ever, his former Manchester United team-mate has been the real MVP of the World Cup for his country so far.

    Fernandes has been involved in four of Portugal's five goals (two goals, two assists), and is only the second player this century to have registered multiple goals and assists in a team's first two group-stage matches, after Karim Benzema for France in 2014.

    He also created 21 chances in qualifying, more than any other Portuguese player.

    PREDICTION

    Portugal lack a desperate need for a result in terms of winning the group, and the Opta prediction model does not have them as overwhelming favourites, though Santos' men are still expected to win with a victory chance percentage of 58.4.

    The draw, which like a Portugal win is of no use either to South Korea's hopes, is rated at 22.3 per cent, while that all important victory for the Taegeuk Warriors is given a 19.3 per cent chance.

  • Ghana v Uruguay: Now interesting Barcelona, Kudus is a star in the making, says Ayew Ghana v Uruguay: Now interesting Barcelona, Kudus is a star in the making, says Ayew

    Ghana captain Andre Ayew knows there is more to come from Mohammed Kudus, who has cemented his place as one of the young stars of the 2022 World Cup.

    Kudus, who was excellent in Ghana's opening defeat to Portugal, scored twice for the Black Stars to help them to a 3-2 win over South Korea last time out.

    That result means Otto Addo's team head into their final Group H match, against Uruguay – a fixture that has plenty of history to it – knowing a win would guarantee their place in the last 16, while a draw may also be enough.

    Kudus, who was close to joining Everton in August, arrived in Qatar having enjoyed a fine start to the season for Ajax, scoring 10 times, and his form at the tournament has been attracting interest from bigger clubs, with Barcelona director Jordi Cruyff confirming the Blaugrana have been tracking the 22-year-old.

    "He has a bright future in front of him," Ayew said of Kudus.

    "We know this, I know this, Ghana knows it now, the world is going to know it. You'll see, more is coming from my boy.

    "Hopefully he can keep on shining because he has a really bright future."

    Friday's match comes over 12 years on from their only previous World Cup meeting in the quarter-finals in South Africa.

    With the game level at 1-1, Luis Suarez used his hand to block Dominic Adiyiah's header on the line. 

    The Uruguay striker was sent off, but Asamoah Gyan rattled the crossbar from the resulting spot-kick, before Ghana lost the subsequent penalty shoot-out.

    While Addo has insisted Ghana are not out for revenge, there will no doubt be plenty of bite to the encounter at Al Janoub Stadium.

    Uruguay have taken just one point from their opening two matches and need to win to progress, while also relying on Portugal not to slip up against South Korea.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Ghana – Mohammed Kudus

    Ghana have scored in their last seven World Cup games and could equal Nigeria's record of eight for an African nation at the tournament, set between 1994 and 1998.

    If they are to win, Kudus will likely play a key role once again. He is the only player to ever score twice in a World Cup match for the Black Stars, and another goal in the tournament would see him match Gyan's record haul of three goals in a single edition of the World Cup for Ghana.

    Uruguay – Federico Valverde

    Arguably one of the form midfielders in world football over the past year, Valverde was limited to having just one shot and making one key pass against Portugal.

    But the Real Madrid star has the ability to take the game away from Ghana if, along with Rodrigo Bentancur, he can win the midfield battle.

    Bentancur won possession 19 times against Portugal, the most by a player in a 90-minute World Cup match since Brazil's Mauro Silva in 1994 against the United States (also 19).

    PREDICTION

    Despite Uruguay's disappointing start in Qatar, Opta's prediction model still makes them favourites for this one, ranking their chances of victory at 54.8 per cent.

    Uruguay have never lost a World Cup match against an African nation, and Opta say Ghana only have a 21.3 per cent likelihood of taking three points. 

    The draw is given a 23.9 per cent chance, and that result would suit Ghana as long as Korea do not beat Portugal by a two-goal margin.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.