Albert Pujols hits milestone homer; Angels lose again

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Don’t blame Albert Pujols; baseball’s best player over the last decade went 2-for-4 and hit his 30th homer Wednesday, yet the Angels lost their third straight to the A’s by a 4-1 score.

Pujols’ homer was his 30th of the season. He’s reached that mark all 12 seasons of his career, tying him with Jimmie Foxx for the third longest streak of all time. Only Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, who both recorded 13 straight 30-homer seasons, had longer streaks.

Pujols also tied Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 28th place on the all-time home run list at 475. Pujols was nicknamed “El Hombre” in St. Louis as a reference to “The Man” that preceded him as the Cardinals’ brightest star.

Still, for all the great company that Pujols is keeping, he’d surely rather be in Oakland’s place in the standings right now. A.J. Griffin shut out the Angels for eight innings tonight before Pujols homered to open the bottom of the ninth in a 4-0 game. The A’s held on from there to open up a 5 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the AL West, and they’ll go for a four-game sweep in Anaheim on Thursday.

At 82-60 with 20 games remaining, the A’s are three games behind the Rangers’ for the AL’s best record and the West lead. They are, however, in a commanding position in the wild card. They’re two games ahead of both the Orioles and Yankees, five games ahead of the Rays and seven games ahead of the Tigers. Two of those teams (or the aforementioned Angels) would have to pass them to deny the A’s a wild card spot.

As for the Angels, things look very dim now. Even if they salvage Wednesday’s game, they’d still be 4 1/2 back of the A’s, and with the other teams in the mix, they’d have a difficult path even if the A’s collapsed.

The Phillies plan to spend money and “maybe even be a little bit stupid about it”

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In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.

“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.

“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.

Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.

How novel.