Albert Pujols has been in his decline phase for a couple of years now. Almost all Hall of Famers experience this, of course, and eventually we’ll sort of forget that it happened. For now, though, it’s having the odd effect of making us forget, at least somewhat, of how bad, bad a man he has been over the course of his 17-year big league career.
But you don’t get to the milestones Pujols is reaching these days without being a bad, bad man. Last night, for example, he hit his 599th career homer. He also went 2-for-4, which brings him to 2,873 hits for his career, tying him with Babe Ruth on the all-time list.
Topping 600 — he’ll be the ninth player to do so — may not take too long, either, as Pujols has been hot lately, having hit homers in back-to-back games and in three of his past five outings.
Barring injury, Pujols should pass Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome before the end of the season to reach seventh on the all-time list. Next year he’ll have a good shot to pass Ken Griffey, Jr. Given that he’s under contract through 2021, Willie Mays is within reach as well, even as he declines.
The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.
Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:
Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:
In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.
The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.
The Athletics called up their top prospect on Saturday, inserting shortstop Franklin Barreto into the lineup for their second game against the White Sox. Barreto was originally scheduled to make his major league debut on Sunday, but got a head start after Jed Lowrie sustained a minor knee sprain in Friday’s 3-0 win and was scratched from Saturday’s lineup.
Barreto, 21, has been rapidly climbing the rungs of the A’s minor league system after getting dealt by the Blue Jays in 2014. He got his first taste of Triple-A action late last year, going 6-for-17 with three RBI and getting caught stealing in two attempts. He fared little better this spring, slashing .281/.326/.428 with eight home runs and a .754 OPS through his first 309 PA in Nashville.
While his minor league production has been solid, if underwhelming for a prospect of his caliber, the A’s are expected to give the rookie infielder a long leash with both Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder sitting on the disabled list. Pinder landed on the 10-day DL after suffering a left hamstring strain on Friday. Semien, meanwhile, is still working his way back from the 60-day DL with a right wrist fracture and likely won’t rejoin the team until he completes a rehab assignment with High-A Stockton.