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OC Register: Albert Pujols equals Willie Mays on all-time HR list, helps Angels to victory


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Albert Pujols picked a good time to finally get the milestone that had eluded him for more than a month.

Pujols blasted the 660th homer of his career, equaling Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time list, with a two-run shot to put the Angels on top in the eighth inning of their 5-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday in Denver.

Pujols had hit his previous homer on Aug. 4, enduring a drought of 93 plate appearances without a homer. It was his longest homerless stretch since 2014.

Pujols now trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Alex Rodriguez (696).

It it likely that Pujols has climbed his final rung on the all-time list. Pujols, 40, has not hit more than 30 homers since 2016, and he has one year left on his contract.

While he had struggled to get the homer to equal Mays, Pujols had nonetheless hit .253 during the drought.

He had drawn walks in two of his three plate appearances before stepping to the plate in the eighth against Carlos Estevez, a 27-year-old Dominican right-hander.

Esteves threw Pujols a 96 mph fastball at the top of the zone, and Pujols blasted it 402 feet into the left-field bleachers, turning a one-run deficit into a one-run Angels lead.

The blast also came just in time to give Andrew Heaney a chance for a victory after he’d allowed three runs in seven innings.

Heaney struck out eight and did not walk a batter.

In the second he gave up a homer to Matt Kemp, and in the third he allowed two more runs on back-to-back doubles into the vast outfield by Kevin Pillar and Charlie Blackmon.

Heaney then worked another four innings without allowing a run, despite giving up leadoff hits in the fourth and sixth. First baseman Jared Walsh started a nice double play to help Heaney escape the fourth and in the sixth he recorded two of his strikeouts to defuse a first-and-third, no-out rally.

Heaney has a 2.36 ERA over his last four starts.

Reliever Matt Andriese worked the final two innings to lock up the victory, giving the Angels the rubber game of the series.

They still have faint playoff hopes heading into a Monday off day and their final 12 games. They are four games behind the Houston Astros for second place in the American League West, pending the outcome of the Astros game on Sunday night against the Dodgers.

Certainly, the Angels had hoped for better than 3-3 on a six-game trip through Texas and Colorado, but they struggled offensively for most of the trip and also had bullpen issues when they did get a lead on Friday night.

Their lineup didn’t do much on Sunday until the late innings. They had just one run, on a bases-loaded passed ball, through the first six innings. Jared Walsh had a two-out RBI single in the seventh to cut the Rockies’ lead to 3-2.

Walsh, who had two hits, has 11 hits in his last 25 at-bats.

OHTANI SITS AGAIN

Shohei Ohtani was on the bench for the second straight game this weekend, and the second time in the past four games when the Angels were facing a right-handed pitcher.

Manager Joe Maddon said he wanted to play both Albert Pujols and Jered Walsh, who are swinging the bat better, and that there is nothing physically wrong with Ohtani.

Ohtani has been in a slump the entire season, carrying a .189 average and .635 OPS into play on Sunday. Maddon said Ohtani’s work and his attitude have remained good, despite the results.

“I don’t see frustration,” Maddon said. “I’m around his work a lot. We talk a lot. Of course, he’s got be internally frustrated. For whatever reason, there are some really good players this year experiencing this same kind of offensive trauma, and they’ll all work through it. If you’re good and you’re young and you’re not hurt, you’ll work through it, and that’s what I think Shohei will do.”

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