When Albert Pujols stepped to the plate in the seventh inning with the bases loaded, one out and the Angels trailing the Oakland Athletics by two runs Friday night, he set his expectations a little low.
"In that situation, man, you just want to stay away from the double play," Pujols said. "You don't want to be a rally killer."
A Tony Robbins, power-of-positive-thinking moment, it was not, but that had no bearing on what happened next.
Pujols tore into an Edward Mujica pitch and sent a low laser screaming over the wall just inside the left-field foul pole for his 13th career grand slam, the key hit in an eight-run rally that lifted the Angels to an improbable 12-7 come-from-behind win in the Oakland Coliseum.
"I got something up and put a good swing on it," said Pujols, whose homer turned a 7-5 deficit into a 9-7 lead. "I knew it had a good chance to go, especially down the line. I was just praying that it would stay fair."
Pujols has been one of baseball’s hottest hitters since late May, hitting .354 (28 for 79) with 12 home runs and 25 runs batted in over his last 21 games to raise his average from .235 to .273.
He has an American League-leading 20 homers on the season, 44 RBIs, a .328 on-base percentage and a .554 slugging percentage. But when asked to describe how he’s felt at the plate recently, he clammed up.
"I don't want to talk about that," Pujols said. "I'm just seeing the ball good and putting my best swing on it. It’s the same thing I’ve been doing all year long, I’m just getting better breaks, I guess. I just thank God I’m able to help my club win.
"That's my main goal every time I put this uniform on, to do everything I can to help the team win. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, sometimes you get frustrated, but I don’t let those things bother me. I know I can hit, I know what I can do. The main thing is staying healthy. If I can, I know I can go out there and perform."