WASHINGTON -- It was hardly ideal timing for a 400th home run. For Albert Pujols, it happened in the fourth inning of a 13-inning loss to a last-place team -- and in a game in which he twisted his ankle trying to climb a rolled-up tarp.
The St. Louis Cardinals slugger led off the fourth against the Washington Nationals on Thursday night by sending an 0-1 fastball from starter Jordan Zimmermann into the right-center seats, becoming the 47th major leaguer to reach the milestone.
At 30 years, 222 days, Pujols became the third-youngest player to hit 400 homers. Alex Rodriguez hit No. 400 at 29 years, 316 days, and Ken Griffey Jr. reached the benchmark at 30 years, 141 days.
As soon as he completed his swing, Pujols stood and admired the shot. He was mobbed by teammates when he returned to the dugout after cutting the Nationals' lead to 3-2. He had been tied with Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga for 47th place on baseball's career list.
"It's a special milestone," Pujols said, "but I don't play for numbers."
Pujols instead spoke of other goals he had as a young baseball fan: to play professional baseball, to play in a World Series and "maybe one day have the opportunity to be in Cooperstown" and the Hall of Fame.
Pujols was more concerned about another loss in a slide that has hurt the Cardinals' playoff chances and about a right ankle that twisted the wrong way when he tried to plant his foot on the tarp to reach for a foul ball near the first base dugout in the 10th inning.
"It's pretty sore right now," Pujols said. "It was pretty scary. I tried to put my right leg on top of the tarp and slipped."
Pujols stayed in the game but said he didn't know if would be able to play Friday because the ankle could swell overnight.
"It was never comfortable," he said. "I was sore. I stayed in the game sore. I know it was going to take more than that to take me out of the game. I knew my team needed me out there."