WASHINGTON -- Albert Pujols was so wired -- and so busy talking and texting friends around baseball -- after hitting his 500th career home run Tuesday night that the Angels slugger didn’t get to sleep until about 4 a.m. and managed only three or four hours of sleep, at best.
“Trust me, I was trying to sleep,” Pujols said before Wednesday night’s series finale against the Washington Nationals. “I knew we had a game today. I’m a bad sleeper no matter what. So, it’s not that I need an excuse. I got my rest.”
Just in case there was any doubt, Pujols, still basking in the afterglow of his milestone homer, stroked the first pitch he saw from Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez on Wednesday to center field for a single. He later hit a run-scoring double in the sixth to tie the game.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Pujols, who became the 26th player in baseball history to hit 500 homers. “It’ll take a little while.”
Pujols said he spoke or exchanged text messages Tuesday night with numerous players, including David Ortiz, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, and he had a 25-minute phone conversation with Tony La Russa, his manager in St. Louis.
His favorite parts of the evening, he said, were thanking God as he ran around the bases, seeing teammates and coaches pour out of the dugout to greet him at home plate and the private celebration he shared with them in the clubhouse after his 20-minute media session after the game.
“They were standing around, one by one, they were congratulating me again, and telling me how blessed they are to be on the team,” Pujols said. “Obviously, it’s a story they’re going to tell their kids. I told them, you don’t see 500 homers every night, or every week, or every season. It’s something really special.”
So is hitting 600 homers or 700 homers, but those are milestones that Pujols, who is 34 and in the third year of a 10-year, $240-million contract, was in no mood to discuss when asked by a reporter how high his home run total could go.
“C’mon, what kind of question is that?” Pujols said. “Right now it’s one day at a time. You can’t read the future. … Before you get to 700, you need to get to 501 and 600. So you can’t go all the way to 700 in one at-bat. I don’t play for numbers. I play to try to win championships.”
For all his prodigious power, Pujols has never been a one-dimensional slugger. Only three members of the 500-homer club had a higher career batting average than Pujols’ current .321 mark — Ted Williams (.344), Babe Ruth (.342) and Jimmie Foxx (.325).
Pujols began Wednesday's game with a career .409 on-base percentage, .599 slugging percentage, 529 doubles and 1,517 runs batted in. He is the only player in history to begin his career with 10 straight .300-hitting, 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons.
He has also never struck out more than 76 times in any of his 13 seasons, a rarity in a game filled with many all-or-nothing sluggers. Williams is the only member of the 500-homer club with fewer strikeouts than Pujols.
But the home run total is probably what draws the most attention.
“Five hundred home runs for a career is an incredible feat for Albert,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s just an extraordinary accomplishment, and he has more in him. It’s exciting to see where he’ll wind up.”
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