Pujols keeps the power turned on
With eight homers in the last 11 games, he matches Mantle with 536.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A lengthy list of problems, issues and concerns melted away for at least one night Tuesday, as the Angels pieced together what for them has been extremely elusive this season: a complete game.
Not the kind where the starting pitcher goes nine innings, though right-hander Matt Shoemaker played a big role in the Angels ending a five-game losing streak with an 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field.
This was a complete-game effort, in which the Angels paired strong starting pitching with stout relief, got a bushel of clutch hits from an offense that built on an early lead by pressuring the Rays in almost every inning, and tossed in a few good defensive plays to boot.
“You don’t ever want to streak in the wrong direction, so it’s definitely nice to snap out of it,” said right fielder Kole Calhoun, who had three hits and a career-high four runs batted in to lead a 15-hit attack.
“It’s nice to get production from top to bottom. I think everybody had a pretty decent night at the plate. It’s good for the offense. Hopefully, you can take those positives and then get rolling for a little bit, which would be huge for this club.”
Sustaining momentum has been a problem, primarily because of a lineup that is getting almost no production from the sixth through eighth spots, which are usually occupied by Matt Joyce (.189), Chris Iannetta (.171) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (.100) or C.J. Cron (.192).
Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto is actively pursuing a lefthanded-hitting outfielder to bolster the offense, with the latest speculation centering on a possible trade of pitcher C.J. Wilson to the Dodgers for outfielder Andre Ethier, though discussions do not appear to be very advanced at this point.
A power surge that fueled a fivegame win streak from May 28-June 1 eased some concerns about the offense.
Then a reliable rotation that kept the Angels competitive for the first two months was torched for 29 earned runs, including 10 homers, in 241⁄ innings of five consecutive
3 losses, two to Tampa Bay in Anaheim last week and three to the Yankees in New York over the weekend.
But after that five-game rough patch in which almost everything went wrong, just about everything went right Tuesday night.
Shoemaker retired the first 11 batters and gave up two runs and five hits in 61⁄ innings, striking out
3 six and walking one. He improved to 4-4 with a 4.86 earned-run average on the season and 1-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his last three starts.
The top four hitters in the lineup — Erick Aybar, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Calhoun — combined to go 11 for 20 with eight runs and five RBIs. The Angels went seven for 18 with runners in scoring position after going six for 39 in those situations in the previous five games.
There was also another milestone homer for Pujols, who tied Mickey Mantle for 16th on baseball’s all-time list with a solo shot to right in the fifth. Pujols, who also doubled and scored in the third and singled and scored in a threerun eighth, has eight homers in the last 11 games and 16 on the season.
“It’s pretty special,” Pujols said. “Mickey is a legend. What he did in this game, nobody is going to forget that. But my goal is to help this club win, and I’m glad I was able to do that tonight.
“I’ll have plenty of time at the end of my career to look back and see what I’ve done in this game, but right now, my focus, day in and day out, for the next six years is to do whatever I can every day to help the team win.”