ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Steven Souza Jr. decided to loosen up and try something different. It paid off.
Souza homered twice to rally the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.
“If you get a good pitch to hit and you’re not tense when you do it, you’re going to be able to do a lot more damage,” Souza said. “These last couple of weeks I felt like I’ve been tight, trying to do too much. Today I just let it go, got some good ones to hit and I didn’t miss `em.”
Colby Rasmus also went deep for the Rays and Erasmo Ramirez pitched six strong innings in his third start of the season.
Albert Pujols hit his 597th career home run, a two run shot in the first for the Angels. It was his sixth of the season.
Ramirez (3-0) gave up four hits and walked one while striking out two. He learned something from Pujols’ homer, which put him behind 2-0 just three batters into the game.
“He’s still got power and he showed me that, but it made me come back to the game and stop falling behind to the other hitters,” said Ramirez, who retired nine of the next 10 Angels he faced.
The Rays got three hitless innings from their bullpen and Alex Colome got the last three outs for his 12th save.
Souza tied it with a two-run homer off Ricky Nolasco (2-4) in the second. Back-to-back doubles by Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier put the Rays up 3-2 in the third.
Rasmus led off the seventh with another home run and Souza, who came into the game in an 8-for-67 slump, followed with his second of the game and seventh of the season.
“The last couple weeks have been a little rough,” Souza said, “but I’m trying to put it past me and get back to being a threat at the plate.”
Nolasco gave up five runs on seven hits, including three homers, in six innings. He has given up 16 homers this season.
Mike Trout doubled in his first two at bats, giving him 409 extra-base hits, tied with Ken Griffey Jr. for second-most among players through their age-25 season. Thirty of Trout’s 52 hits this season have been for extra bases.
Pujols needs three more homers to become the ninth player to reach 600 homers, and 12 more to tie Sammy Sosa for eighth all-time.
“Obviously Ramirez made some pitches and got out of some innings,” Pujols said. “At the end of the day we didn’t have enough to win.”
Evan Longoria became Tampa Bay’s all-time leader in walks when he drew his 543rd from Nolasco in the third.
Angels: Closer Huston Street (right lat strain) and RHP Matt Morin (neck tightness) threw perfect innings in a rehab assignment at Triple-A Salt Lake. Morin struck out two.
Rays: RHP Diego Moreno (right shoulder bursitis) was placed on the 10-day disabled list and RHP Ryan Garton was recalled from Triple-A Durham. … RHP Tommy Hunter (right calf strain) could be reinstated from the disabled list in the next few days.
BIG STRIKEOUTS FOR STANEK
Pitching in only his sixth game, rookie reliever Ryne Stanek struck out Trout and Pujols on 98 mph fastballs to end the Angels eighth. “It’s one of those things where you try to not really look at who’s in the box and just go up and throw what you’re capable of throwing, and hope good things happen,” he said.
STRIKOUTS PILE UP FOR RAYS
The Rays struck out 11 more times, staying well ahead of the major league record pace with 10.51 strikeouts per game. It was the 34th time in 49 games they have struck out 10 or more times. Rasmus has struck out two or more times in six of seven games. Kiermaier has fanned nine times in seven games and Tim Beckham has whiffed 10 times in the last eight games.
Angels: RHP Daniel Wright (0-0) will replace RHP Alex Meyer as Thursday’s starter against Tampa Bay. Manager Mike Scioscia is hopeful that Meyer, who went on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with mid-back stiffness, will return next week.
Rays: RHP Matt Andriese (4-1), ejected in the sixth inning Saturday for hitting New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge with a pitch, goes against Wright.