DENVER – A few weeks ago, Albert Pujols received a text out of the blue: “It's your time now. Go get it.”
That meant a lot coming from none other than Willie Mays, the Hall of Famer he was trying to catch.
Pujols tied Mays for fifth place on the career homer list with a two-run shot in the eighth inning, and the Los Angeles Angels rallied for a 5-3 win over the slumping Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
“To be able to have my name in the sentence with Willie Mays is unbelievable,” Pujols said. “I’m really humbled.”
Trailing 3-2, the 40-year-old Pujols lined a fastball from Carlos Estevez (1-3) into the empty seats in left field for his 660th homer. He was eagerly greeted by his teammates following his first homer since Aug. 4.
“I was just telling them, ‘Finally, I hit one in the air,’” Pujols cracked.
Pujols now trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Alex Rodriguez (696) on the career home run list.
“Everybody knew what was at stake. Everybody knew what was going on,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It was almost like a walk-off reaction when he hit it. Everybody was thrilled for him.”
The ball was easily retrieved from the stands with no fans to fight over the keepsake — or celebrate the milestone. Pujols will keep the ball, but his bat went to third base coach Brian Butterfield, a Mays fan.
The secret to Pujols' prodigious power? He doesn't try to go deep. That simple.
“You go out there and try put a good swing," Pujols said. "Every 660 that I have now, that’s what I try to do every time."
It was a crazy day at the plate for the Angels, who had more walks (10) than hits (six). They also had a hit batter and reached on an error as the Rockies pitching staff struggled to find the strike zone.
Andrew Heaney (4-3) threw seven efficient innings for Los Angeles, allowing three runs and no walks while striking out eight. Matt Andriese tossed two solid innings to earn a save for the second straight game.
The Angels took two of three from the Rockies and wrapped up a six-game trip with a 3-3 mark.
“It was a perfect moment for him and for us,” Maddon said. “We’re still not out of this thing mathematically and to get a big knock like that, it can help pick up our spirits for the next couple of days.”
Colorado continued its fall after an 11-3 start. The team dropped to 10-22 since Aug. 9.
Kevin Pillar and Charlie Blackmon hit back-to-back RBI doubles in the third for Colorado. Matt Kemp added a solo homer.
Rockies starter Ryan Castellani had an intriguing line: 5 2/3 innings pitched, one hit, one unearned run, four strikeouts, one hit batter and six walks. He didn’t surrender his first hit until Max Stassi singled in the fifth.
“He hung in there. It didn't look pretty,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He bobbed and weaved through that game."
Angels first baseman Jared Walsh had another big game with two hits, including an RBI single. His string of four straight games with a homer was snapped.
Maddon has been impressed with the 27-year-old Walsh, who was a 39th-round pick in 2015.
“This is a young man who might be arriving at that stage-three point, where it's ‘I belong here, I can do this’ as opposed to just being a survivalist and just trying to figure out if he belongs here or not,” Maddon said.
Rockies: 3B Nolan Arenado was given the day off to rest a sore left shoulder. “It’s feeling better today after some treatment and therapy,” Black said. ... OF Raimel Tapia left in the fifth. Black said he was a little dizzy after jarring his head while making a diving catch in the third.
Maddon hasn’t noticed any outward frustration from a slumping Shohei Ohtani, who is hitting .189 and was out of the starting lineup for a second straight game.
“For whatever reason, there are some really good players this year experiencing this same kind of offensive trauma,” Maddon said. “They will all work through it. If you’re good, you’re young and you’re not hurt, you’ll work through it. That’s what I think Shohei shall do.
“We have games left. We’re not quitting on anybody right now. He’ll be out there often.”
Pujols said that when he retires he will reflect on all his memorable milestones.
“Because that's when I’m going to have plenty of time to look at what I’ve done,” Pujols said. “I know my place in history. I know that because friends and family are always talking to me. I try not to get caught up too much in numbers or records or who’s next.”
Angels: After an off day, the Angels will host Arizona in a three-game series. Righty Julio Teheran (0-3, 8.23 ERA) will throw Tuesday.
Rockies: Begin a two-game series against Oakland on Tuesday. Righty Antonio Senzatela (2-5, 4.35 ERA) goes for the Rockies and lefty Sean Manaea (4-2, 4.46 ERA) for the Athletics.
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