Pujols 2 back of Mays after 437-foot slam

August 3rd, 2020

is nearing Hall of Famer Willie Mays’ career total of 660 home runs, as Pujols crushed a grand slam in a 6-5 loss to the Astros in 11 innings on Sunday to reach 658 career homers. Mays ranks fifth all-time in career homers, trailing only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Alex Rodriguez (696).

Pujols’ homer scored the only runs for the Halos until extras, when Michael Hermosillo tied the game with an RBI single in the 10th, but the offense failed to come through in the 11th after the Astros took the lead.

With the Angels trailing early, 2-0, Pujols came to the plate against right-hander Josh James after the Houston starter had walked the bases loaded with two outs in the third. Pujols jumped all over a 2-0 fastball over the middle of the plate for his second home run of the season and his 15th career grand slam. The drive to left had an exit velocity of 107.1 mph and traveled a projected 437 feet.

"It was a 2-0 count, and knowing that bases are loaded there, he doesn't want to go 3-0, so he's probably gonna try to give you a good pitch to hit," Pujols said. "I feel comfortable enough, even though I'm probably not swinging the bat the way that I want to right now. I knew that if I could get a good pitch to hit, I could do some damage, and that's what I did."

The slam also gave Pujols 2,080 career RBIs, which ranks fourth all-time behind Aaron (2,297), Ruth (2,213) and Rodriguez (2,086). The Elias Sports Bureau, however, only credits Ruth with 1,992 RBIs since the RBI didn't become an official stat until 1920, so Pujols’ total is actually ranked third by the official statistician of Major League Baseball.

The grand slam was also the first hit of the game for the Angels and helped make up for Shohei Ohtani allowing two runs on five walks in the second inning before departing and undergoing an MRI for arm discomfort. It was Pujols’ 60th career homer against the Astros, which is a record for the most homers hit against Houston.

Outside of the grand slam from Pujols, the Angels struggled with runners in scoring position, going 2-for-16. They also blew their Major League-leading fifth save in 10 games this year, as Ty Buttrey gave up a game-tying RBI single in the ninth to Josh Reddick. It led to a frustrating series loss for the Angels, who dropped to 3-7 on the year.

But manager Joe Maddon remained positive after the game, as he believes it was just another close loss for a team on the cusp of turning it around.

"It is [tough]. I cannot deny that, but I love the way we fought today," Maddon said. "I thought in my mind's eye if we keep playing that game, it's gonna be fine, we're going to come out on top a lot more often. The mental intensity was fantastic right to the very end.

“[The Astros] are a good team still. You can see that they've won just based on how they play. A little swagger about them. They've earned it. They got us at the end, but I think we've proven that we can play with these guys."

The Astros took the lead in the top of the 10th, when Taylor Ward appeared to forget that a runner was automatically on second with the new extra-innings rule. Ward took his time throwing the ball back into the infield after a nice catch in right, and it allowed Kyle Tucker to reach third and score on a sacrifice fly from Garrett Stubbs.

The Astros took the lead in the 11th on a one-out RBI single from Alex Bregman off Jacob Barnes, and the Angels were unable to score in response against lefty Blake Taylor despite loading the bases with two outs. Brian Goodwin flied out to center to end the game and a disappointing homestand. But like Maddon, Pujols is remaining optimistic.

"We could have won, and it would have been great to win the series vs. the Astros, but we have a day off tomorrow. We need to get ready to play on the road and hopefully turn things around," Pujols said. "We are 3-7 but can easily flip this thing around on this next road trip and hopefully be over .500. We need to stay positive, keep putting in the hard work day in and day out."