The Angels and Rangers will finish up a three-game series Wednesday night in Arlington, Texas, with Los Angeles happy to show off its “youthful” first baseman in Albert Pujols.
Pujols, 41 and in his 21st major league season, has played in nine consecutive games without a day off, including Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to the Rangers. For manager Joe Maddon to decide against a 10th straight game on Wednesday, he would have to sit down a three-time MVP who has suddenly found his power stroke of old.
Pujols has five home runs this season, four of them coming in the past eight games. That would put him on a pace for 38, a total he’s reached only once in the past 10 seasons (40 in 2015).
“The ball has been coming off real hot,” Maddon said. “He’s on balance a lot. He’s feeling pretty good about himself right now and that’s what I’m seeing. He’s kind of turning into a Benjamin Button.”
This season is Pujols’ final season of his 10-year contract with the Angels, but he hasn’t announced his decision on retirement just yet.
“My mind is on staying healthy and trying to help this team win,” Pujols said early in spring training. “I want to help this ballclub win, and if at the end of the year I decide that’s it, I’ll announce it and go home. But I’m not even there yet.”
Right-hander Alex Cobb (1-1, 6.28 ERA) will be on the mound for Los Angeles, coming off his worst start of the season. Last Thursday in Houston, he allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks in just 2 2/3 innings.
Cobb is 1-1 with a 2.90 ERA in six career starts against the Rangers.
Right-hander Dane Dunning (1-0, 3.06 ERA) makes his fifth start for Texas. Dunning, acquired by the Rangers in an offseason trade from the White Sox for pitcher Lance Lynn, was impressive in his first three starts before struggling his last time out against the team that traded him.
In that one, he lasted 2 2/3 innings and gave up five runs on eight hits and two walks. The two walks, though, pushed Dunning’s season total to just four. And it is that willingness to attack the strike zone that Rangers manager Chris Woodward said made Dunning attractive to the Rangers.
“That was what was most intriguing when we tried to get him with the Lance Lynn trade,” Woodward said. “He fit the model of what we want and what we’re trying to get the mentality for our entire pitching staff to be.”
Rangers second baseman Nick Solak’s two home runs Tuesday increased his season total to seven, tied with six others for the American League lead. Four of those home runs have come in the past seven games.
Home runs have been key for the Rangers’ success so far this year — they are 9-8 when hitting at least one homer in a game, but only 1-6 when they go without one.
–Field Level Media