ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols managed a smile when he finally reached first base in Tuesday's seventh inning, and so did everybody else, too.The Angels' cleanup hitter had taken a 92-mph fastball from Rangers reliever Tony Barnette to the side of the head, putting a dark spin on a night when
ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols managed a smile when he finally reached first base in Tuesday's seventh inning, and so did everybody else, too.
The Angels' cleanup hitter had taken a 92-mph fastball from Rangers reliever Tony Barnette to the side of the head, putting a dark spin on a night when Pujols cranked a couple of three-run homers to eventually carry his surging Angels to an 8-6 victory, their fifth in a row.
He collapsed to the ground, but quickly sprung up, noticeably dazed at first. He told an apologetic Barnette he was fine, but his head stung, and Angels trainer Adam Nevala arrived just as Pujols' hands dropped to his knees. Nevala cupped his hands around Pujols' face. Three Angels coaches -- manager Mike Scioscia, first-base coach Gary DiSarcina and third-base coach Ron Roenicke -- surrounded them, and Barnette stood off to the side.
Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun looked on, staring from the top step of the dugout as Pujols then dropped to a knee. But he sprung up within five seconds, and he walked to first base, and he told Nevala that he would remain in the game, because it was the seventh inning and the Angels were only ahead by a couple of runs.
And so he did.
And then he smiled.
"It could've been worse," Pujols said moments afterwards. "It could've been in my face. I'm just glad I was able to smile and not pop my eyes out or break my forehead. I'm just glad I was able to get up and stay on my feet."
The pitch caught the brim of Pujols' helmet, absorbing some of the shock. Barnette apologized on the field three times, and the two later met in the common area that connects both clubhouses at Angel Stadium, after Pujols ran through some tests and passed effortlessly.
"I'm good," he told the media.
"Fortunately it didn't hit him flush," Barnette said. "It's a scary situation. I don't want to hit a guy in the head. He's a quality person and a Hall of Famer. I'm glad he's OK."
Pujols' head seems just fine, and his bat does, too.
He's had multi-homer performances in two of the last three games for the first time in his illustrious career and is batting .287/.366/.687 over his last 60 games, while on pace for 33 home runs and 122 RBIs. Scioscia believes Pujols is "quietly having another incredible season."
Both of Pujols' home runs came off Kyle Lohse, his Cardinals teammate from 2008-11.
The first -- on a first-pitch changeup in the fourth, immediately after Trout hit a line drive off the center-field fence -- went 107 mph off the bat and traveled a projected distance of 380 feet, according to Statcast™. The second -- on a 3-1 slider in the fifth, after the Rangers intentionally walked Trout to set up a potential double play -- was even more impressive, traveling 421 feet and 108 mph.
"I've seen a lot of that from him," said Lohse, who started Game 3 of the 2011 World Series for the Cardinals, when Pujols hit three home runs against the Rangers at Globe Life Park. "He's battled some things the past few years, but he looks pretty healthy."
Pujols' six RBIs were his most in a regular-season game since 2009 and his most in any game that counts since that signature World Series contest that Lohse pitched in. He has 19 home runs on the season and 579 for his career, four shy of Mark McGwire for 10th on the all-time list.
"I just feel good at the plate," Pujols said, his slash line for the season at .252/.331/.447. "It's just one of those things. Nothing really changed. Sometimes, in this game, you're going to miss some pitches, and sometimes you tell yourself, 'That happens.' And then when you're locked in, it's the same pitch pretty much that you miss. You just have to ride with it."
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.