Pujols hits 35th home run as Angels take series from A's
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Albert Pujols has been saying for about 15 years now that he will reflect on the many milestones and special home runs once his career is through, and he still hopes that is many seasons down the road.
''I've been blessed my whole career,'' Pujols said. ''I was born to play this game and to hit.''
Healthy legs powering him again at last, Pujols hit a two-run drive to make him one of four players with 10 35-homer seasons in their first 15 years, leading the Los Angeles Angels past AL ERA leader Sonny Gray and the Oakland Athletics 9-4 Wednesday.
He is eager to do anything to keep the Angels in the playoff mix.
''Albert's obviously put together a Hall of Fame career but we know it's not over yet,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ''He's got as much passion to play this game now as he ever has.''
Pujols had an RBI single in the first inning, then hit his 555th career homer in the second that tied Dominican Republic countryman Manny Ramirez for 14th on the all-time list. He joined Hall of Famers Willie Mays (10) and Mike Schmidt (11) and Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez (12) to have reached 35 home runs in 10 or more years in their first 15 seasons.
''It's something I don't look for every year, I just try to be healthy and do whatever it takes to help our organization win,'' Pujols said. ''I got my legs back healthy and I felt great in spring training. ... Manny is probably one of the best right-handed hitters that ever played this game. He's pretty amazing. To be on the same page with him and along the way with so many great hitters that I've passed this year, it's awesome. It's something I don't try to get caught up too much. At the end of my career, I keep telling you guys for 15 years, I can look back and enjoy how blessed I've been.''
Andrew Heaney (6-2) struck out six and didn't walk a batter in seven innings to end a six-start winless stretch. He had gone 0-2 since a victory against Texas on July 26.
Gray (12-7) lost his third straight decision, matching his career high with six earned runs allowed for the first time since exactly a year earlier on Sept. 2, 2014, at Seattle.
The All-Star righty gave up four straight singles to start the game. Gray's wild pitch scored the first of four runs in the inning.
Gray lost to the Angels for the first time in five starts this season after beginning 3-0.
The Angels won two in a row for the first time since a three-game winning streak Aug. 17-19. They also earned just their fifth victory in the last 22 road games.
David Murphy and David Freese each singled home runs in the first inning and C.J. Cron had an RBI groundout as Gray fell behind. Gray also dropped to 7-3 in 12 starts against the AL West this year and 19-8 for his career.
Josh Phegley hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first when the A's pulled back within 4-3.
''I gave up four and then we came back and put up three and then to give up two back there in the second, it kind of took the air right out of us,'' Gray said.
Oakland has homered in a season-high nine straight games, with 12 longballs. Brett Lawrie led off the eighth with his 15th home run against reliever Joe Smith.
Billy Burns and Danny Valencia returned to the Oakland lineup after each sat Tuesday to rest their ailing bodies. Valencia hit an RBI single.
Angels: 1B/LF Efren Navarro was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake to give Los Angeles more depth at first given Pujols was designated hitter for the second straight game. Navarro came in to pinch-run in the seventh and stayed in to play 1B beginning the eighth.
Athletics: RHP reliever Evan Scribner has a tear in his lat muscle behind his pitching shoulder and is done for the season. He had a similar injury in 2011. ... OF Sam Fuld (back spasms) missed a third straight game and could need a few more days. ... Oakland optioned RHP Cody Martin to Triple-A Nashville a day after taking a loss in his first career start.
Angels: Off-day Thursday. RHP Garrett Richards (12-10) pitches the series opener Friday against Texas, trying to improve on his 2-0 mark and 1.84 ERA through his first two starts of the year against the Rangers.
Athletics: After Thursday's off-day, RHP Aaron Brooks will face Seattle Mariners for the first time Friday. He makes his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Saturday for his second big league stint of 2015.
Eds: This corrects that Pujols is one of four players with 10 35-home run seasons in his first 15 years.