Pu­jols pow­ers An­gels

First base­man who is fifth in All-Star votes hits grand slam dur­ing eight-run sev­enth. AN­GELS 12 OAK­LAND 7

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike DiGiovanna

OAK­LAND — Al­bert Pu­jols went to high school in In­de­pen­dence, Mo., just out­side of Kansas City, but he’s been un­able to curry fa­vor with Roy­als fans who, as of last Mon­day, had po­si­tioned eight of their home­town play­ers — some of whom ac­tu­ally de­serve the honor — to start the July 14 All-Star game in Cincinnati.

Pu­jols is fifth among Amer­i­can League first base­men in fan vot­ing with less than a fifth of Eric Hos­mer’s lead­ing to­tal, and he’ll be com­pet­ing with the likes of Miguel Cabr­era, Prince Fielder and Mark Teix­eira, who are all hav­ing su­perb sea­sons, for a backup spot, which is cho­sen by play­ers, man­agers and coaches.

Kansas City Man­ager Ned Yost, who will lead the AL squad, could add Pu­jols,

and there is al­ways the fi­nal one fan vote, but if Pu­jols doesn’t make his first Al­lS­tar team in four sea­sons with the An­gels, it would be one of base­ball’s all-time snubs.

Pu­jols lined the 13th grand slam of his distin­guished ca­reer, a laser that didn’t seem to rise more than 20 feet off the ground, in­side the left-field foul pole to high­light an eight-run sev­enth in­ning that gave the An­gels a stun­ning 12-7 come­from-be­hind vic­tory over the Oak­land Ath­let­ics on Fri­day night.

It was the AL-lead­ing 20th homer of the sea­son and the 12th homer in the last 21 games for Pu­jols, a stretch in which the slug­ger has hit .354 (28 for 79) with 25 runs bat­ted in to raise his av­er­age from .235 on May 27 to .273. He ranks 16th on base­ball’s all-time list with 540 ca­reer homers.

“He’s one of the hottest hit­ters in the league,” said cen­ter fielder Mike Trout, who is in line to start the Al­lS­tar game. “This last month, he’s been un­con­scious. It’s been fun to watch. He de­serves to be there. He’s get­ting big hits for us ev­ery day.”

Few were as big as his grand slam Fri­day night. The An­gels trailed, 7-2, af­ter six in­nings but chased starter and All-Star can­di­date Sonny Gray with two walks and two sin­gles, in­clud­ing Matt Joyce’s RBI hit, to start the sev­enth.

Pinch-hitter Daniel Robert­son drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 7-4. Kole Cal­houn struck out, but A’s left­fielder Ben Zo­brist dropped Trout’s fly ball over his right shoul­der for an er­ror that al­lowed a run to score.

Pu­jols then crushed a pitch from re­liever Ed­ward Mu­jica for a homer that gave the An­gels a 9-7 lead. An RBI sin­gle by Johnny Gi­avotella capped the sec­ond-big­gest in­ning of the sea­son for the An­gels, who scored nine in the fifth in­ning at Bos­ton on May 22.

“Al­bert is an All-Star, whether he’s se­lected or not — he’s one of the top play­ers in base­ball,” An­gels Man­ager Mike Scios­cia said. “I don’t know how you leave him off the team, but we’ve seen that se­lec­tion process be sketchy at best. Al­bert would have fun go­ing to the game. He be­longs there. But you never know.”

Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred, who met with the teams be­fore the game, is open to changes in the se­lec­tion process, but not this year.

“If, af­ter the game, we de­cide fan vot­ing needs an ad­just­ment, we’ll make it next year,” Man­fred said. “I’m not closed to the idea that there should be ad­just­ments.”

Man­fred said there are “pro­tec­tions built into the sys­tem” that en­sure the best play­ers are in the game. Play­ers, man­agers and coaches vote for eight pitch­ers and back­ups at each po­si­tion, and the man­agers fill out the ros­ter. And there is still time for fans in other cities to nudge out some Roy­als play­ers.

“Fans,” Man­fred said, “have a way of cor­rect­ing things by the end of the vot­ing.”

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