It was a midsummer night's tradition for
Trout, now the
But there was another player who caught Trout's eye because he, too, was an All-Star fixture, an iconic player like Jeter, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn who was in the game virtually every year.
"The best players play in that game, and he was one of the best, his numbers were pretty stupid," Trout said before Saturday night's game against the
Pujols somehow found a way, injuries and a few slow starts resulting in a four-year All-Star drought from 2011 to 2014.
But Pujols, 35, is back this season to where many believe he belongs, the health of his legs providing the foundation for a huge first half that earned him not only a start in Tuesday night's All-Star game in Cincinnati but a spot in Monday's
"When you think of Albert Pujols, you think of one of the best first basemen in the game for the last 15 years," Angels third baseman
Pujols fractured his left wrist June 20, 2011, and was not picked for the All-Star game that summer. A brutal start to his Angels career, when he hit .190 with one home run and nine runs batted in through May 8, dashed his All-Star hopes in 2012.
Pujols was not All-Star worthy in 2013, when he hit .249 with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs in the first half and was slowed by an inflamed plantar fascia in his left heel and a sore right knee. He had a better first half in 2014, hitting .279 with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs, but it wasn't good enough to be on the team.
There was no denying Pujols this season. He began play Saturday with a .259 average, .329 on-base percentage, .544 slugging percentage, 26 home runs — tying him with Trout for the
And during a torrid 37-game stretch from May 27 through Tuesday, Pujols had a .299/.392/.730 slash line with 18 home runs, 39 RBIs, 19 walks and 11 strikeouts to help the Angels surge back into the
"He put us on his back and carried us for a month, both he and Trout, and kept us alive," closer
It's easier to carry a club with strong legs. Pujols has a unique stance in which he crouches to the point where he's almost in a sitting position, and he relies mostly on his legs to generate power. When his legs aren't 100%, neither is his swing.
"You don't teach that," hitting coach Don Baylor said. "His stance is different than anyone else's, but it works for him. He always talks about getting his legs into his swing, and I don't think he really had that last year. You could tell a difference this spring, when he was hitting balls on a line out of the park."
Trout has played only four seasons with Pujols, but he could tell the slugger wasn't right in 2014 and especially in 2013.
"When your legs are banged up and you're altering your swing … I'm not trying to make excuses for him, but I see him every day, and he plays through some aches and pains," Trout said. "He's been through a lot."
Pujols called his All-Star selection "a great honor," and he's as excited to go for the 10th time as he was the first.
"It's the same special feeling I had when I was 21," Pujols said. "It's pretty special, especially with the great players in the game right now. It's hard to get in. To put in the hard work and to feel healthy all year is rewarding."
Good health, though, is apparently relative. Pujols feels better than he did the previous two seasons, but Street said he is still playing hurt.
"He has not been all-the-way healthy this past month," Street said. "He would never talk about it. He he doesn't want people to know, and he doesn't make excuses.