Albert Pujols’ single in Thursday’s the ninth inning that gave the Angels their first victory of the season tied him with David Ortiz of the Red Sox with 19 walk-off hits since 2000, the most among active players. Pujols said he knows what to look for in such situations having experienced the scenario so many times in his 15-year career.
Thursday marked Pujols’ fifth walk-off hit in five seasons with the Angels and the second time he has produced a game-winning hit after Mike Trout was intentionally walked in front of him. He would have been credited with a double for the ball he hit in the left-center field gap had he not needed just a single to win the game.
Last season the Angels won 23 games on the last at-bat, tying the Cubs for the most such victories in baseball in 2015.
Albert Pujols/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
The Angels needed two things to happen Sunday in order to force a one-game playoff Monday at Houston to determine the second wild-card team for the postseason.
The Angels had to win at Texas and have Houston lose at Arizona. Houston lost 5-3, but the Angels also lost, 9-2, after leading 2-1 after the first inning. That meant Houston won the second wild-card spot.
The Rangers, who clinched the AL West with their victory, scored twice in the fifth and six times in the seventh to blow open what would be the final game of the season for the Angels.
The Angels got a double by Mike Trout and 2-run home run by Albert Pujols off Rangers starter Cole Hamels in the first inning. But Hamels allowed only one more hit – a double by Shane Victorino in the second – while pitching a complete game.
The Angels finished 85-77 and won nine of their last 12 games to put themselves in position to get into the playoffs.
“I was inspired by these guys,” manager Mike Scioscia said during a post-game television interview on Fox Sports West.
I was inspired by these guys.
Jered Weaver/Photo courtesy of Los Angels Angels
– The Angels have done a nice job of playing themselves back into the playoff picture as they enter their three-game series Monday at Houston 2 1/2 games behind the Astros for the second of two American League wild-card spots. But the Angels, who are four games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the AL West, will be on the outside looking in if they get swept in this series. That would put them 5 1/2 behind Houston with just 10
games to play. Also, keep in mind that the Angels have Minnesota and Cleveland to deal with in the wild-card race as the Twins are tied with the Angels and the Indians are just 1 1/2 games behind those two.
– The first game of this series would seem a pitching mismatch favoring the Astros. The Angels will send Jered Weaver (7-11, 4.74 ERA) against the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel (17-8, 2.56). Weaver was ejected in the fifth inning of his most recent start for plunking Kyle Seager of the Seattle Mariners after the two had exchanged words during the at-bat Wednesday in Seattle. Weaver is having his worst season in 10. Keuchel is a Cy Young
Award candidate, but he was hammered for nine earned runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 13-4 loss at Texas on Wednesday.
– This would be a great time for Albert Pujols to start hitting again. That could be a lot to ask because he is suffering from a sore right foot that has been causing him a lot of pain and discomfort. Not able to play his position at first base, Pujols has nevertheless been toughing it out as designated hitter. Unfortunately for the Angels, he has gone in the tank at the plate, batting just .152 this month with one home run and nine RBIs.
– Mike Trout is another one. After batting just .218 in August with one home run and seven RBIs, he has improved this month. In September he’s batting .258 with six home runs and 11 RBIs. But keep in mind that two of those home runs and five of the RBIs came in one game. In other words, Trout is still not doing what the reigning MVP should be doing for his team down the stretch of a playoff race. Trout’s other numbers this month are good – .385 on-base, .613 slugging and .998 OPS. But he has to drive in runs on a more consistent basis over these final 13 games, and he has to hit better than .258. Here’s the difference: Trout hit .320 in June with eight home runs and 16 RBIs and .367 in July with 12 home runs and 24 RBIs.
– Bottom line is, the Angels are going to need some clutch pitching performances in this series. Hector Santiago (8-9, 3.47) goes against Lance McCullers (5-6, 3.18) of the Astros on Tuesday and the Angels’ Nick Tropeano (2-2, 5.06) squares off with Mike Fiers (7-10, 3.64) on Wednesday. Santiago has had a poor second half. Santiago had an ERA of 2.30 on July 20 and was selected as a replacement on the All-Star team. He is
coming off an outing Thursday in Minnesota that saw him give up five earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. He has one victory since July 20.
David Murphy hit a 3-run home run in Tuesday’s victory at Seattle/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
– With time winding down and the Angels’ playoff chances getting slimmer and slimmer as each day passes, this was one of the team’s biggest wins of the year. With 18 games to play, the Angels are four games behind the new first-place team in the AL West – the Texas Rangers. The Angels are 3 1/2 games back of Houston, which currently holds the second wild-card spot. There is another team in the mix, and that’s the Minnesota Twins.
They are two games ahead of the Angels in the wild-card race and just 1 1/2 back of Houston. The Angels have four games left with the Twins, three with Houston and four with Texas.
– Mike Trout hit a home run. It was his third this month after he hit just one in all of August. Trout now has tied his career-high with 36 home runs. He has 78 RBIs, but won’t come close to reaching his career-high of 111 set in 2014. Unless he goes on a binge down the stretch, he likely won’t reach 100.
– Albert Pujols, with his sore right foot, is struggling mightily. He went 0-for-4 and his batting average is down to .243. His on-base-percentage is down to .304. He is batting just .174 this month with a home run and seven RBIs.
– David Murphy hit a 3-run home run in this game. Of the three outfielders the Angels acquired before the non-waiver trade deadline – Murphy, Shane Victorino and David DeJesus – Murphy is the only one making any real noise. He is batting .263 for the Angels with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 114 at-bats. Victorino is batting .194 in 62 at-bats, DeJesus .115 in 52 at-bats.
– Catcher Carlos Perez had three hits and is batting .333 (10-for-30) this month – but with only one RBI. His season average is up to .233 and he’s getting more starts that Chris Iannetta, who is batting just .180.