ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Albert Pujols checked his phone between innings and saw a text from his wife in the stands. Deidre Pujols bluntly told him to stop pressing so hard for his 600th homer.
Although the Los Angeles Angels slugger isn’t strictly supposed to be using his phone during games, that message was exactly what Pujols needed to hear in order to reach the next milestone in a remarkable career.
Pujols hit a grand slam in the fourth inning Saturday night, becoming the ninth member of the 600-homer club during the Angels’ 7-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
After three straight homerless games since hitting No. 599, Pujols reached the mark in theatrical style, putting a low pitch from Ervin Santana (7-3) high down the left-field line and into Angel Stadium’s short porch for his 14th grand slam. The Anaheim crowd roared while fireworks soared overhead for the 37-year-old’s ninth homer of the season and his 155th for the Angels.
Pujols paused at the dugout steps to wave to the crowd — and to plant a kiss on Deidre, who had given him the same message Friday night.
“I’m glad I listen to her one in a while,” Pujols said with a smile. “At a moment like this, I always start putting pressure on myself. Usually she’ll give me some encouragement. It was just a perfect time to check my phone, and I’m glad I did.”
Pujols staked the Angels to a 7-1 lead with his ninth homer this season. He became the fourth youngest to reach the 600-homer club — and the first to join it with a slam.
Santana had yielded just one earned run in 29 innings on the road this year before struggling at Angel Stadium, where he was Pujols’ teammate during the 2012 season after the slugger signed as a free agent and before Santana was traded to Kansas City.
“I mean, I’m not the only one, you know?” Santana said. “I’m probably No. 599 of the 600 club. I’m happy for him. I’m glad he got it done.”
Actually, Santana is one of 386 pitches to give up a homer to Pujols, who has homered against all 30 teams and in 37 ballparks.
Andrelton Simmons and Kole Calhoun hit back-to-back homers in the third inning for the Angels.
Max Kepler homered for Minnesota.
Matt Shoemaker (5-3) pitched five-hit ball into the seventh inning for his fourth victory in his last five starts. After Minnesota took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Kepler’s RBI single, Shoemaker found his groove and largely limited the Minnesota lineup that scored 11 runs on Friday.
The Angels went ahead in the third when Simmons delivered a two-run shot to left for his sixth homer and Calhoun added a shot to right for his eighth. Pujols came up next with a chance to give the Angels back-to-back-to-back homers — but he struck out on three pitches.
An inning later, Pujols got it done.
“Albert chasing history, I think that we can all appreciate that,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. “A little tough to applaud when it’s a grand slam that kind of puts you down by six, but give him credit.”
The homer was caught on the fly by Scott Steffel, a 23-year-old graphic designer and die-hard Angels fan who had been coming to games with his father and brother all week since seeing Pujols’ 599th homer. Steffel presented the ball to Pujols on the field after the game.
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