Pujols joins elite with 15th 20-homer season

Pujols joins elite with 15th 20-homer season

ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols earned his nickname, "The Machine," through his years with the St. Louis Cardinals for a simple reason: He was arguably the most dangerous hitter in the league, producing 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons with machine-like efficiency.

On Saturday night against the Boston Red Sox, Pujols again demonstrated that he has the ability to be one of the best run-producers in the sport, turning on a first-pitch Drew Pomeranz cutter for a two-run homer in the third inning of the Angels' 5-2 win.

The home run, which had an exit velocity of 109 mph and was projected by Statcast™ to travel 447 feet, not only gave the Angels a 3-2 lead but also further vaulted the slugger higher into the ranks of the all-time greats.

Pujols on the Angels' 5-2 win

It was his 20th home run this season, putting him in a group with Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only players to slug 20 or more homers in 15 of their first 16 seasons. It was also his 1,190th extra-base hit, tying him with Lou Gehrig for ninth all-time in that category. Pujols now sits at 580 career home runs, three shy of tying Mark McGwire for 10th all-time.

There was a time this season when many of Pujols' abilities were in doubt. A slow start saw his batting average at .176 after April, and constant nagging injuries to his lower half have forced him to almost exclusively be used as a designated hitter. But, in typical Pujols fashion, when he got hot, the production came quickly.

"We weren't worried about Albert," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He always comes around, and when he does it leads to this kind of production."

Pujols' two-run homer Saturday gave him 30 RBIs for the month of July, the most of anyone in the Majors and making him the first to record that many in July since Alex Rodriguez and Delmon Young did so in 2010. Pujols has 80 RBIs and is on pace to finish the season with 125, which would be his highest total since 2009, the year he last won the National League MVP Award. He's also on pace for 31 home runs.

His batting average has also jumped up to .260, as Pujols has hit .331 (39-for-114) since June 25.

As Pujols' bat has returned, so has the Angels' offense. The club has hit .291 in the month of July, scoring a Major League-best 149 runs through its first 25 games (5.96 runs per game).

"The Machine" is still running just fine.

"When it's all said and done, Albert has, year after year, been one of the most productive hitters to ever play the game, and he's showing it," Scioscia said. "He's on pace for an incredible amount of RBIs, he's getting big hits for us. He's driving the ball out of the ballpark and he's doing things that you need a cleanup hitter in the Major Leagues to do."

Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Anaheim. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.