ANAHEIM -- In Spring Training, the Angels tried to come up with a plan to keep Albert Pujols healthy and productive in his age-39 season after undergoing left knee surgery and right elbow surgery last year.
That plan has worked to perfection, as Pujols is one of just two Angels position players not to miss a game due to injury this season, along with Kole Calhoun. Pujols has had a solid second half and kept it rolling with a homer, a double and four RBIs in the Angels' 6-4 win in the series finale against the Rays that snapped a six-game losing streak on Sunday at Angel Stadium. The homer was No. 656 in his career, moving him within four of Hall of Famer Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time list.
“He’s been our most consistent hitter the last 40-something games,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s had a really nice season, quite frankly. Not only does he drive in runs, he’s a very smart hitter. Today is an example that he still has power left in him.”
Pujols rarely plays first base three days in a row to stay fresh and served as designated hitter on Sunday, something that's helped keep him on the field this season. He was aggressive on the bases in the first inning, dropping in a bloop RBI double with one out and stealing third base on a pitch that saw Kole Calhoun draw a walk. Pujols then attempted to score on a sacrifice fly to left field and beat the throw, only to see Calhoun get thrown out at second before Pujols touched home.
Pujols helped make up for it in the fifth, when he smacked a three-run blast off Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough. It was the 23rd homer of the year for Pujols, giving him his most in a season since 2016, when he hit 31.
“Knock on wood, he’s stayed healthy,” Ausmus said. “The knees have been good. He gets in the weight room. He’s really diligent about the maintenance work for his legs. His whole body, but his legs in particular. He’s had some rest days for the knees to get a break. But the credit is all his. It’s really been the maintenance and the performance.”