Albert Pujols hits 497th home run as Angels rout Tigers
Albert Pujols is quietly closing in on 500 home runs.
Pujols hit No. 497 on Friday night, part of an offensive onslaught by the Los Angeles Angels in their 11-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers. Howie Kendrick added two homers of his own, and 10 of Los Angeles’ 13 hits went for extra bases.
Afterward, Pujols demurred when asked about the milestone he’s approaching.
"I don’t want to talk about that. Thank you," Pujols said.
The slugging first baseman was willing to discuss another powerful performance by the Angels, who entered the day with a major-league-leading 24 homers and hit three more against the Tigers. Los Angeles is without outfielder Josh Hamilton, who had surgery last week on his injured thumb.
"Obviously, we miss Josh, and he’s a power boost to the ballclub," Pujols said. "But our job is to hopefully do whatever it takes to be in first place by the time we get Josh back."
The Angels chased Detroit starter Drew Smyly (1-1) after three innings and then added seven runs off reliever Luke Putkonen.
Kendrick hit two-run homers in the third and fourth, and Pujols lined a three-run shot to left field in the sixth to give the Angels an 11-1 lead.
Jered Weaver (1-2) allowed a run and three hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out three.
The Angels have won 10 straight against the Tigers, the longest active streak in the majors by one team over another.
Kendrick and Ian Stewart both had three hits for the Angels, with Stewart falling a homer shy of the cycle. Mike Trout doubled twice.
Smyly allowed four runs and six hits in his first start since 2012. The Angels scored two runs each in the second and third, then broke the game open with four off Putkonen in the fourth.
After excelling in the bullpen in 2013, Smyly is going to start for the Tigers this season, but his first two appearances of the year came in relief because Detroit didn’t need a fifth starter yet.
His first chance to start went badly. Smyly needed 82 pitches to get through three innings.
"I felt pretty good, I just couldn’t put anyone away," Smyly said. "Any time I’d get ahead of someone, they would keep fouling off pitches and working the count, and then they’d find something they could hit. That’s a really good lineup, and they hammered everything I left over the plate."
With the Angels already ahead 2-0, Pujols led off the third with a double and Kendrick followed with his first homer of the night. Putkonen came on the following inning and couldn’t quiet the Los Angeles bats.
After a two-run double by Trout made it 6-1, Kendrick hit a two-out drive to right-center that was ruled a homer after a review. The ball appeared to glance off a rail above the wall.
Pujols hit his fifth homer of the year to move one swing closer to the 500-homer club. After a disappointing, injury-plagued 2013, the Los Angeles first baseman may be rediscovering his slugging form.
If the Tigers had been able to keep their deficit manageable, their five-run rally in the seventh would have been a lot more significant. Josh Wall, called up from the minors before the game, relieved Weaver in the seventh and allowed five runs on four hits and a walk — without retiring a batter.
Ian Kinsler’s two-run single highlighted that rally, but second baseman John McDonald made a spectacular play to retire Victor Martinez, ranging to his left to make a sprawling stop, then rolling and throwing to first from his back. Alex Avila grounded out with runners on second and third to end the inning with the Angels still up by five.
With runners at first and second for Detroit and one out in the ninth, McDonald ended the game with a heads-up play. Don Kelly hit a soft flare toward the second baseman, and with the runners having to freeze, McDonald let the ball drop, tagged second for a force and then ran over and tagged Martinez between second and third for an unassisted double play.
It ended up being a fairly easy victory for the Angels after four of their previous six games went to extra innings.
"We’ve been swinging the bats well," Kendrick said. "Obviously, we’ve been putting up runs, and we’ve had quite a few tough games."
Kinsler had three hits for the Tigers.
— Nationals CF Denard Span (7-day DL, concussion) is expected to be in Washington for Saturday’s game.
— In the third game of the four-game series, Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 5.27 ERA) will start against Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn (3-0, 4.00).