The Angels are still chasing the Seattle Mariners.
Only for one night, that pursuit was set aside long enough for Albert Pujols to catch some history.
With two home runs and three hits total, Pujols passed Rod Carew and pulled even with Rickey Henderson on one all-time list and tied Ken Griffey Jr. on another.
The Angels pounded the Mariners 11-2, though the result was overshadowed by Pujols’ performance and the fact all of this occurred on Shohei Ohtani bobblehead night, an affair that nearly filled Angel Stadium.
“I don’t play for these milestones,” Pujols said. “My goal is to try to help this organization win every day. At the end of my career, I can look back and I’m going to have plenty of time to see what I’ve accomplished.”
In his 18th season, Pujols now has 3,055 hits, tying him for 25th all-time with Henderson. His second homer - a drive to left field that traveled nearly 420 feet - gave him 630 for his career, equaling former Mariner Griffey Jr. for sixth.
“Griffey was everybody’s hero growing up,” Pujols, 38, said. “Even though I was right-handed, everybody wanted to have that sweet swing. It’s just really special to tie a legend against the team that he came up to in the big leagues.”
Now with 52 RBIs, Pujols leads the Angels. His 16 home runs have him on pace to hit 27 for the season. His batting average sits at .251, its highest point since June 22.
“It’s phenomenal,” winning pitcher Tyler Skaggs said of Pujols, noting that the slugger’s first homer went to the opposite field. “I thought we were going to be in for a special day today.”
Entering Thursday, the Angels had faced a left-handed starter 24 times and won on only seven of those occasions. They had the second worst batting average in baseball against left-handers and had scored the second fewest runs.
They had no issues against Seattle’s James Paxton, who was benched because of back stiffness after only 17 pitches.
In that short time, though, David Fletcher homered, Mike Trout singled and Pujols homered, and the Angels had the lead for good and more hits in five batters than they had Wednesday in nine innings.
The home run for Fletcher was a career first, putting him only 629 behind Pujols, whose two-run shot four batters later disappeared into the crowd above the right-center field gap.
“When I’m good, that’s what I do,” Pujols said. “I hit the ball the other way with authority…I work hard at it every day. I don’t take anything for granted.”
Given a 3-1 edge, Skaggs refused to let a team that was down back up.
He gave up only three singles and didn’t allow another Mariner to reach second base over the next five innings.
Coming off a month in which he produced the lowest June ERA in club history, Skaggs has given up four earned runs and struck out 41 in his last 38 innings.
“The first inning, I felt a little rusty,” said Skaggs, who returned after spending 10 days on the disabled list because of an adductor strain. “Kind of worked back into things. I exerted a lot of energy in the first. I felt like I kind of cruised after that.”
Coming off a month in which he produced the lowest June ERA in franchise history, Skaggs now has surrendered four earned runs and struck out 41 over his past 38 innings.
He hasn’t given up a home run since May 28 and has strung together six consecutive starts of allowing no more than one earned run, tying a team record for left-handers.
“This is the best I’ve ever thrown the ball my whole career,” he said. “Looking forward to my next outing.”
His effort wasn’t the only notable one on the mound Thursday. By the time this rout was over, Seattle’s pitcher was infielder Andrew Romine, a former Angel. In working through a two-run eighth inning, the utilityman did something no other Mariners pitcher could do Thursday:
He retired Pujols.
The Angels promoted outfielder Jared Walsh and infielder Luis Rengifo to triple-A Salt Lake. Both began the season at single-A Inland Empire.
Walsh, a 39th-round draft pick out of Georgia in 2015, has 21 homers in 81 games in 2018.
Rengifo was acquired in spring training from Tampa Bay in exchange for C.J. Cron. He has played mostly shortstop this season, but the Angels plan to give him more time at second base, a position they’ve struggled to fill since Howie Kendrick’s departure.