By Michael Kolligian and Troy Provost-Heron
ST. PETERSBURG -- On a night when Albert Pujols hit another historic homer, the Angels put together a three-run seventh inning thanks to the bats of Kyle Kubitza, Erick Aybar and Mike Trout to propel themselves to a 6-2 victory over the Rays in the rubber match of a three-game series Thursday night at Tropicana Field.
Trailing 2-1 with one away and two on in the seventh, Kubitza pushed across the tying run with a single to right field and was followed by Aybar, who hit a slow grounder to second and reached first on a fielder's choice to score Efren Navarro from third. On the ensuing at-bat, Trout, who ended the night a triple shy of the cycle, delivered a double to score Aybar.
Pujols added some insurance in the ninth with a two-run home run, and in the process, passed Mickey Mantle for 16th on the all-time home run list with his 537th career long ball.
Steven Souza Jr. plated the only runs of the ballgame for the Rays on one swing, sending an 0-2 pitch over the fence in right field in the second inning.
Garrett Richards recorded his sixth win of the season, allowing two runs on four hits in seven innings while striking out seven. Alex Colome tossed 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out four en route to a no-decision.
"That's a great outing from Garrett," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "The biggest thing you saw was strike one. He was in the zone early and with great stuff. He threw some really impressive breaking balls tonight, both curveballs and sliders, and he pitched ahead in the count where he could use all his stuff."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Leaky 'pen: One night after surrendering just two hits in four innings, the Rays bullpen was tasked with performing a similar feat Thursday, but couldn't come through. Brandon Gomes placed another zero on the board in relief of Colome in the sixth, but Kevin Jepsen came in and allowed Matt Joyce and Navarro to reach base before Kubitza's single tied things up at 2. Brad Boxberger came in to relieve Jepsen after the Kubitza single, but allowed Aybar to ground into a fielder's choice that scored Navarro, and then surrendered a double to Trout that drove home Aybar. More >
"With the guys we have down there [in the bullpen] and the mentality everyone has, you put this one behind you," Jepsen said. "You'll have some rough games throughout the season. We play so many games. It's tough for us because Colome pitched such a great game and was keeping those hitters at bay for so long. It's a tough loss, but we'll get right back there tomorrow."
Richards bounces back: The Angels right-hander shook off the effects of his previous start, when he allowed six earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning against the Yankees, to fire a series-clinching gem at the Rays. Richards surrendered the two-run blast to Souza but was otherwise brilliant, allowing four hits, striking out seven and walking one in seven innings, while throwing 70 of his 94 pitches for strikes. He has now produced a quality start in eight of 11 outings this year.
"I worked on some things in my bullpen [sessions] this week, sticking my landing and finishing square. That's what I did last year and that's why I was successful, so I'm getting back to that," said Richards. "My curveball was really good tonight, slider was good, but the biggest thing was just attacking guys. I threw a lot of strikes and tried to stay ahead in the count, and make competitive pitches."
Albert stands alone: Pujols assumed sole possession of 16th place on Major League Baseball's all-time home run list when he launched a ninth-inning fastball from Rays right-hander Preston Guilmet into the left-field seats for the 537th home run of his career. The roundtripper, which made the score 6-2, was Pujols' 17th of the season and tied him with Trout for the Angels' team lead. Pujols had tied Yankees great Mantle for 16th place in Tuesday night's game with the Rays when he deposited a fifth-inning fastball from Nate Karns into the right-field seats for home run No. 536. More >
"It's been a great career so far, but at the same time, I'm just glad that I was able to do something to help my ballclub win. To me, that's more important than anything else," said Pujols. "I've been swinging the bat well all year long and if you stay with that approach, sooner or later they're going to fall."
Trout keeps cooking The Angels' slugger temporarily took sole possession of the team home run lead when he blasted his 17th long ball of the season in the sixth. Trout has now connected for six homers in his last 11 games, while hitting safely in 19 of his last 22 contests.
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Pujols and Trout, who have combined for 34 home runs this season, have now homered in the same game 24 times in their careers.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Hector Santiago [4-3, 2.55 ERA] will make his first start in nine days on Friday when the Angels and Athletics open a weekend series at Angel Stadium at 7:05 p.m. PT. Scioscia opted to rest the 27-year-old left-hander by skipping his turn in the rotation last weekend against the Yankees. Santiago turned in a solid relief effort in New York on Saturday, however, pitching 3 2/3 innings of scoreless ball in an 8-2 Angels loss. He is 1-0 this season against the A's.
Rays: Matt Andriese was recalled from Durham on Thursday and will start against the White Sox at Tropicana Field on Friday night at 7:10 p.m. ET. Andriese has made seven appearances for the Rays this season, posting a 0-1 record and two saves with a 4.79 ERA. The White Sox will be the first non-AL West opponent the Rays have played since May 31 when they played in Baltimore. More >