When the 2010 season concluded, Albert Pujols could claim -- for all players in history through their first 10 seasons -- the most home runs, total bases and extra-base hits, and the fourth-most RBIs.
Pujols had gotten started in the big leagues at a young age (debuting with the Cardinals when he was 21), and he had hit the ground rolling in that debut season, playing 161 games and setting a few National League rookie records along the way.
The journey past milestone after milestone had not been derailed by significant injury, labor strife or military conflict, and he just kept engineering superb seasons, one after another. In a sense, Pujols had produced the most ideal 10-year start to a career in the history of the game.
In the years since, his odyssey has been less smooth, more meandering, and pocked with a pothole or two, but the milestones have kept coming. No career -- from start to finish -- is ever perfect, but it doesn't need to be to reach extraordinary achievements and drive by rarely glimpsed markers.
Albert joins exclusive club
Playing in his 14th season and 1,978th career game, and taking the field at the age of 34 years and 96 days, Pujols hit his 499th career home run in the first inning Tuesday against the Nationals, and clubbed his 500th homer in the fifth frame.
Pujols is the 26th member of the 500th home run club, and the first to reach the milestone since Gary Sheffield did so on April 17, 2009. Among the 26:
• Pujols is the third-youngest player to reach the milestone. Only Alex Rodriguez (32 years and eight days) and Jimmie Foxx (32 years and 338 days) were younger.
• Pujols is the fourth player to have reached 500 homers through his first 14 Major League seasons, joining Mark McGwire (522 at the conclusion of his 14th year), Rodriguez (518) and Willie Mays (505).
• Pujols is the seventh player to reach 500 home runs through 1,978 games. He joins McGwire, Babe Ruth, Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Harmon Killebrew and Foxx.
• Among all players in history through their first 14 seasons, Pujols already ranks sixth in RBIs, third in total bases, first in extra-base hits, 10th in times on base and 11th in OPS+ (min. 5,000 plate appearances for this last one).
• Pujols, who joined Reggie Jackson (Sept. 17, 1984) as the second player to hit his 500th career home run as a member of the Angels, is the first player to hit his 499th and 500th homers in the same game. In 1971, Frank Robinson hit his 499th in the first game of a doubleheader and his 500th in the second game that day.
Fernandez outduels Wood
In a classic pitchers' duel, Miami's Jose Fernandez offered up probably the best outing of his career, fanning 14 with no walks and allowing three hits in eight scoreless innings. Fernandez picked the win, while his counterpart, Atlanta starter Alex Wood, took the loss after an eight-inning stint in which the lefty allowed four hits, one run and no walks while notching 11 strikeouts.
Fernandez (21 years and 265 days old) was the fifth-youngest pitcher since 1914 to have a game with at least 14 strikeouts and no walks. The Reds' Gary Nolan was the youngest, having picked up 15 Ks at 19 years and 11 days in 1967.
|Gary Nolan||19 years, 11 days||June 7, 1967||15|
|Dwight Gooden||19 years, 301days||Sept. 12, 1984||16|
|Dwight Gooden||19 years, 306 days||Sept. 17, 1984||16|
|Kerry Wood||20 years, 324 days||May 6, 1998||20|
|Jose Fernandez||21 years, 265 days||April 22, 2014||14|
Wood (23 years and 100 days old) was the second-youngest Braves pitcher since 1914 to have a game with at least 11 strikeouts and no walks. He followed John Smoltz, who was 23 years and 27 days old on June 11, 1990, when he accomplished the feat.
Tuesday's game was the first since (at least) 1914 in which both starting pitchers were younger than 24 and both collected at least 11 strikeouts while not issuing a walk. It was also the second nine-inning affair since 1914 in which both starters were under the age of 24 and achieve a game score (an equation used to determine a pitcher's dominance) of at least 81. Fernandez posted a 90, while Wood came in at 81. The other game took place on Aug. 24, 1984, when the Reds' Jeff Russell threw a three-hit shutout (with a game score of 86) and defeated the Pirates and Jose DeLeon, whose Game Score was 84.
At 21 years and 265 days old, Fernandez was the 28th youngest pitcher since 1914 to post a game score of at least 90 in a nine-inning contest. He was the youngest since the A's Brett Anderson on July 6, 2009. In that game against the Red Sox, Anderson went the distance on a two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts and two walks for a game score of 90. Anderson was 21 years and 155 days old for that command performance.
Marlins pitchers struck out 15 with no walks Tuesday, while Braves pitchers fanned 13 with no walks. It was the first game since (at least) 1914 in which both teams reached at least 13 strikeouts while issuing no walks.
Cueto goes the distance vs. Bucs … again
After delivering a three-hit shutout with 12 K's and no walks on April 16 vs. the Pirates, Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto again went the distance Tuesday, limiting the Bucs to just three hits and a run in 4-1 win.
Cueto was the first Reds pitcher since Tom Browning in April 1994 to hurl consecutive complete games on three hits or fewer, and the first pitcher in the Majors to do this since the Mets' R.A. Dickey hurled back-to-back one-hitters in June 2012.
Cueto was the first Reds pitcher since Fred Toney in 1917 to have back-to-back three-hitters in starts against the Pirates. Toney performed his feat on the same day, throwing three-hitters in both ends of a doubleheader on July 1 that season. Between 1918-2013, five other pitchers had consecutive three-hitters in starts against the Pirates, with four of the five hurlers doing it while representing the Mets.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.