WASHINGTON — Albert Pujols reached 500 homers in a hurry.
The Los Angeles Angels’ first baseman hit a pair of shots off Washington Nationals right-hander Taylor Jordan on Tuesday night — a three-run homer in the first inning and a two-run drive in the fifth — to become the 26th player in major league history to reach the milestone.
Pujols is the first player to collect his 499th and 500th homers in the same game, according to STATS. About three months past his 34th birthday, he’s also the third-youngest to get to 500; Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx were both 32.
Making a quick recent surge, Pujols has eight homers this season, all in the past 13 games.
The 500th went to left-center field at Nationals Park, on an 89 mph pitch with the count at 1-2. Pujols clapped his hands together a few strides before trotting home, then pointed both index fingers to the sky. As soon as he touched the plate, Pujols was greeted by his Angels teammates, who streamed over from the visiting dugout.
Fans gave the three-time NL MVP a partial standing ovation, and he acknowledged the spectators by tipping his red batting helmet as he approached the dugout. After heading down the steps, he came back out for a curtain call.
In other at-bats Tuesday, Pujols struck out swinging in the second inning and grounded to shortstop in the seventh.
After a couple of down-for-him years with the Angels following 11 transcendent seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, a healthier Pujols appears ready to reclaim his spot among the game’s elite hitters. He homered Friday and Saturday in games at the Detroit Tigers to lift his career total to 498, and now he’s reached the round number of 500 — a total that remains hallowed despite losing its luster in recent years because so many players have surpassed it.
Of the 26 members of the 500-homer club, 11 have reached the mark in the last 15 years, according to STATS. Gary Sheffield was the most recent player to do it, hitting No. 500 on April 17, 2009.
“It’s huge. That’s a lot of balls over the fence. That’s a lot of them. Albert’s one of the great hitters of this generation,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said before his team’s series against the Angels. “The ability to not only hit home runs, but the ability to hit .330 and drive in 100-plus every single year — that’s saying something. That’s the ultimate guy you want on your team, because he provides it all.”