If Albert Pujols appeared to be slowing down in his old age, he must have only been doing it to set a trap for his opponents. Battling plantar fasciitis last season, Pujols finished 2013 with a career-low 17 home runs and a .767 OPS. Pujols smacked a pair of dingers on Sunday afternoon against the Rays, giving him 12 on the season already along with a respectable .257/.319/.497 slash line. The Angels emerged victorious by a 6-2 margin, keeping them within 3.5 games of the Athletics for first place in the AL West.
The pair of homers gives Pujols 504 for his career, putting him into a tie for 25th all time with Eddie Murray. Pujols, 34, could reasonably move into 18th all-time with at least 522 (he’d need 18 more) by the end of the season. He would leapfrog Gary Sheffield (509), Mel Ott (511), Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews (512), and Willie McCovey, Ted Williams, and Frank Thomas (521).
You can watch both of Pujols’ home runs here and here.
No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.