Pujols pulled within one of Griffey with a two-run homer off left-hander James Paxton in the first inning and then tied the Mariners great with his 630th career blast, a solo shot off Nick Rumbelow in the sixth. The 38-year-old slugger finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs, tying Rickey Henderson for 25th place on the all-time hits list (3,055).
"Griffey was everybody's hero growing up," Pujols said. "That's how I look at it. Even though I'm right-handed, everybody wanted to have that sweet swing. ... It's just really special to be able to tie a legend, against the team that he came up with in the big leagues."
David Fletcher and Justin Upton also homered for the Angels (48-46), who are 10 games back of the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card spot after taking two of three games during this series. After a 4-2 homestand, the Angels will head to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers this weekend in their final series before the All-Star break.
Left-hander Tyler Skaggs fired six innings of one-run ball in his first start since returning from the disabled list. Skaggs missed his scheduled start in Seattle last week with a right adductor strain, but he picked up right where he left off on Thursday, holding the Mariners to five hits while walking one and striking out five in the 80-pitch effort. He now has a 2.57 ERA in 17 starts this season and has allowed one or fewer earned runs in six consecutive starts, tying the club record for a left-hander.
"This is the best I've ever thrown the ball in my whole career," Skaggs said. "Take it one day at a time, one step at a time. I'm looking forward to my next outing."
The Mariners scored their only run against Skaggs in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Dee Gordon reached on an infield single after hitting a soft grounder down the first-base line. Skaggs fielded the ball and attempted to flip it to Jefry Marte at first base, but Marte wasn't there to receive the throw, allowing Gordon to advance to second on the throwing error. Gordon later scored on Kyle Seager's two-out RBI single to right field to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
"I would say the first inning was a little rusty," Skaggs said. "Kind of working back into things, right out of the stretch after the first batter. Kind of exerted a lot of energy in the first. I felt like I kind of cruised after that, but the first inning was tough."
The Angels entered Thursday with a 7-17 record against left-handed starters, but their bats came alive against Paxton in the first inning. Fletcher led off with his first career home run, crushing Paxton's second pitch of the night to left field to tie the game, 1-1.
"Obviously, once I saw it go over the fence, it felt really good," Fletcher said. "I'm not a home run hitter, but every now and then, I'll run into one."
After a single from Mike Trout, Pujols blasted a first-pitch fastball from Paxton to center field for a two-run homer that put the Angels ahead, 3-1. Mariners athletic trainers then came out to check on Paxton, who was forced to depart with lower back stiffness. Paxton, who threw just 17 pitches and recorded two outs, was replaced on the mound by right-hander Chasen Bradford.
"I think the guys were comfortable in the box against a really tough pitcher in Paxton," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We did a good job early to get the lead."
The Angels added another run in the second after Marte reached on a hit-by-pitch, advanced to third on Martin Maldonado's single and scored on Kole Calhoun's sacrifice fly. They extended their lead to 5-1 in the fifth on Ian Kinsler's RBI single. Kinsler went 3-for-5 with three RBIs to collect his 18th multihit game of the season.
Upton and Pujols then hammered back-to-back home runs off Rumbelow to break the game open with a four-run sixth. After Andrelton Simmons singled and Trout reached on a hit-by-pitch, Upton belted a first-pitch slider to center field for a three-run homer. Pujols followed by depositing another misplaced slider from Rumbelow over the left-field fence to tie Griffey.
"It's fun to watch," Scioscia said. "But the beautiful thing about Albert is he wants to win, and that's what he plays the game for. He's focused and he's prepared, and he's really come alive with the bat."
Having already used five relievers to cover the innings left by Paxton's early exit, Mariners manager Scott Servais decided to send infielder Andrew Romine to the mound in the eighth inning. Romine, who was making his fifth pitching appearance, yielded another pair of runs on Kinsler's two-run single to left field.
SOUND SMART Trout joined Joe Morgan (1974) as the only players with 100 hits, 80 walks and 15 stolen bases before the All-Star break.
UP NEXT The Angels will head to Los Angeles on Friday to take on the Dodgers in their final series before the All-Star break. Right-handers Felix Pena (1-0, 3.63 ERA) and Walker Buehler (4-2, 3.44 ERA) will face off in the Freeway Series opener at 7:10 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium. Pena gave up two runs over 5 1/3 innings in his last start against the Dodgers on July 6 at Angel Stadium. Since moving into the Angels' rotation, Pena has posted a 2.75 ERA over four starts.