Pujols and One Page of the Record Book

Sunday's three home run outburst reminds us that Albert Pujols has the opportunity to set a number of single-game and career home run marks before his playing days are done.

With home runs in each of his final three at-bats on Sunday, including the walk-off game winner against the Cincinnati Reds, Albert Pujols continues his assault on Major League Baseball's record books.

The final home run Sunday was the sixth game-ender of Pujols' just-over five season career. Prior to then, his last walk-off was last season on July 15 in the 13th inning of first game of the second half against the Houston Astros.

The Cardinal Nation can only hope Sunday's performance provides the team with the same kind of momentum as that one, as the 2005 squad went on to win the National League Central Division crown by 11 games over the Houstonians.

Game-ending home runs - career
In the annals of MLB, Pujols is now half-way to sharing the record for most walk-off homers ever. The five career leaders, each with 12 game-enders, are all household names and Hall-of-Famers. But, most importantly, they did not come anywhere near averaging one game-winner per season as has Pujols - Jimmie Foxx (21 seasons), Frank Robinson (21) , Babe Ruth (21), Mickey Mantle (18) and Stan Musial (23 seasons).

Three home-run games - career
Sunday was Pujols' second career three-home run game, alongside the Cubs contest of July 20, 2004. That earlier game featured his two-run shot off Chicago's La Troy Hawkins in the ninth inning of an 11-8 comeback win. The Cards had trailed 8-2 after three innings that day.

That seems only fitting since 2004 was Sammy Sosa's final season in Chicago. Sosa co-holds the MLB career mark for three home run games with former Cardinal Johnny "Big Cat" Mize at six.

Three home-run games - season
Sosa also solely owns the record for three-home run games in a single season with three, set during the 2001 campaign.

With his streak of home runs in consecutive at-bats at three and counting, here are other MLB records that Pujols could take starting with the contest against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.

Home runs – consecutive at-bats
The record for most home runs in consecutive at-bats is four, set by many players over the years, including Ralph Kiner and Mike Schmidt, who each did it twice. It most recently was accomplished by then-Toronto slugger Carlos Delgado in 2003.

Another player recognized in this category is folk legend Tuffy Rhodes, who hit his four over the final game of the 1993 season and the opener in 1994 for the Cubs. As an aside, after a long career in Japan, Rhodes retired this spring after failing in his bid to make the Cincinnati Reds, the team against which Pujols teed off on Sunday.

Pujols would need to go deep in his first at-bat Monday to tie this record. Two to start the game would give him sole possession of this mark.

Home runs – two consecutive games
Five is the MLB record for most home runs in two consecutive games, again accomplished many times, most recently by Cleveland's Travis Hafner during the 2004 season.

Stan Musial also hit five during a double-header on May 2, 1954. As a member of the Oakland A's, Mark McGwire did it twice – in 1987 and 1995.

Pujols would need two long balls anytime during Monday's contest to tie this record.

Home runs – three consecutive games
The best-ever mark for home runs in three consecutive games is seven, set by then-Dodger Shawn Green in May, 2002.

With a home run on Saturday, Pujols currently has four in two consecutive games. Therefore, he would need another three-home run game on Monday to tie, or register a total of four or more on Monday and Tuesday to claim this mark.

While the records go from there up to ten home runs in eight consecutive games, I won't get too far ahead of myself – yet.

As we all can see, the Herculean feats of Albert Pujols have only just begun. And they will manifest themselves in many ways more important than just home runs.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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