By John Denton
ST. LOUIS — Continuing to hit home runs with great meaning — both in terms of historical significance and to the Cardinals’ chances of landing a top playoff seed — Albert Pujols hit the 698th home run of his career Friday against the Reds.
With the Cardinals trailing 4-2 in the sixth inning, Pujols hit a hanging slider from Raynel Espinal a Statcast-projected 427 feet. The blast, which left his bat at 106.3 mph, pulled the slugger within two home runs of 700. Only three players in NL/AL history have hit 700 home runs — Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth — and Pujols is making a charge to join them before he retires at the end of this season. The Cardinals have 17 games remaining after this one for Pujols to try to hit at least two more home runs.
Five of Pujols’ past six home runs have either tied the game or given the Cardinals the lead. His mammoth shot off Espinal also extended his NL/AL record to 453 pitchers he has gone deep against.
In his career, Pujols has homered 49 times off the Reds. That trails only the Astros (62), Cubs (59) and Pirates (54).