Foot pain not stopping Pujols on basepaths
Angels slugger legs out infield hit and steals second, also doubles and scores on hit
ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols, even with the right foot pain that has been hampering him for almost a month, was impressive on the basepaths in the Angels' 8-1 win over the A's on Tuesday that vaulted them back into the second American League Wild Card slot.
Pujols legged out an infield hit and a double. He stole second base without a throw, after getting a huge jump on Oakland starter Chris Bassitt. And he scored twice from second base on singles, including once against the strong arm of A's right fielder Josh Reddick.
"It's still there, but it's manageable," manager Mike Scioscia said of Pujols' nagging injury, which he sustained when he landed hard on the first-base bag Aug. 28 in Cleveland.
"He's moving well," Scioscia added. "Albert's a really intelligent baserunner, and now that he's moving a little bit better, you can see that he can create some things on the basepaths."
The pain in Pujols' foot has limited to designated hitter duties for most of September. He last played first base Sept. 4. But he's been able to remain in the heart of the order.
"I'm playing baseball; I'm in the lineup. That's all that matters," Pujols said. "Everybody in this clubhouse, they have their aches and pains, and it's a long season. It's not just me. We're just giving everything that we can to be out there and hopefully win games every day."
The Angels have five games remaining. They hold a half-game lead on the Astros in the second Wild Card spot and trail the Rangers by two games in the AL West.
The Angels expected Pujols to DH for the remainder of the season, but now that his movement's improving, there's at least a chance he could return to the field down the line -- perhaps during the playoffs, if the Angels make it.
"Well, we've talked about it," Scioscia said. "He's said that at some point he thinks he'd be ready to. But right now there's no real advantage to taking the risk of what he's doing in the batter's box."
Pujols has been hitting the ball hard of late, despite being unable to generate his usual power from the lower half of his body. The veteran is batting .333 (9-for-27) with three home runs in his past seven games.
If he could play first base at any time, that would significantly bolster the defense. Pujols is a more effective defender than his replacement, C.J. Cron. But Scioscia said the Angels won't chance putting too much strain on Pujols' foot for now.
"At some point, if it's going to make us a better team and he's capable, then you know Albert will say, 'Hey, I want to go out there and play,'" Scioscia said. "But right now, we need him swinging the bat, so we're not going to do that yet."