Grateful Pujols ties for 17th with 534th homer
Angels slugger reflective after matching Foxx on all-time list; Mantle next
ANAHEIM -- The seasons keep marching on and the names keep dropping off. Next will be Jimmie Foxx, No. 17 on the all-time home run list. Albert Pujols tied him with a fourth-inning solo shot on Tuesday night, his sixth homer in the last six days and the only blemish for electric Rays starter Chris Archer in the Angels' 6-1 loss.
Pujols is now at 534 career home runs, a number not even his innate tunnel vision can avoid reflecting on.
"I never thought in my life that when I got to the big leagues I was going to have half the home runs I have hit," said Pujols, who is two homers behind Mickey Mantle for 16th place. "I thank the lord for giving me the talent to be able to play this game, and to give me the strength and the power. I know the last four years have been tough with injuries and going through the things that I'm going through, but I never give up. I just work hard every day to give the best that I can give to my teammates and to the fans."
That's one thing Angels manager Mike Scioscia has noticed about Pujols, now 35 and nearing the midway point of his 15th season. It's a trait Pujols' longtime skipper, Tony La Russa, continually referenced when talking about what set the nine-time All-Star apart from the mere mortals of this game. And it's something Scioscia referenced late Tuesday night, when asked if Pujols ever shows excitement, even when he's on a tear like this one.
"During the game, he's thinking about one thing -- us winning a ballgame, and what he needs to do to win a ballgame," Scioscia said. "That's what he's consumed with, and I think that's what makes him special."
Shortly after reaching the 500-home run club, Pujols had platinum, diamond-encrusted medallion necklaces made. He kept one for himself, and wears it frequently these days, and handed the others to his children. Asked recently about what he'd do if he reached 600, Pujols laughed and tried his best to ignore the thought.
That may come, too.
Pujols' latest homer -- on a 1-1 slider that didn't break low enough -- gave him a team-leading 14 on the year and put him on pace for 43 this season, which would represent his highest total since 2009. It would also put his career mark at 563, which would tie Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson for 13th.
If he averaged 20 homers over the final six years of his 10-year, $240 million contract, he could finish as high as fourth on the all-time list, behind only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
"One day I can look back and say, 'What a career,'" Pujols said. "But it's hard for me to stay focused on that. I know the people in front of me because people bring it up to me all the time. It's a blessing to accomplish that. I have to acknowledge that. But at the same time, I have to block that out."
Pujols was the only Angels player who even stood a chance against Archer, who struck out 15 batters and walked zero in eight innings of one-run ball. Pujols entered batting .375 over his last eight games, then lined into a double play, homered, flied out to right and flied out to the edge of the warning track in center field, missing his 15th home run by a couple of feet.
He was the only Angels starter Archer didn't strike out.
"I'm getting better luck," said Pujols, his batting average still stuck at .254. "If you look all year long, I've hit some balls hard. Sooner or later, if you continue to do that, you're going to find some holes."
Pujols was uncommonly reflective late Tuesday night.
He recalled how La Russa questioned him as a rookie, by asking him if he'd rather have a .300 batting average or hit 30 homers -- before knowing Pujols would do both for 10 straight years.
"I went for the 30 homers," Pujols said. "Rookie mistake."
He talked about Mike Trout.
"Ten or 15 years from now," Pujols said, "you guys are going to talk to him about reaching 500."
And he talked about enjoying the moment.
"Our life is like numbers," Pujols said. "You don't even know if you're going to wake up tomorrow. You have to enjoy every moment. So I don't like to plan, I don't like to think about what can happen. I just let things happen."