Pujols homers, now just 3 shy of No. 600

Pujols homers, now just 3 shy of No. 600

ST. PETERSBURG -- Albert Pujols blasted his 597th career home run in the first inning of the Angels' 5-2 loss to the Rays on Wednesday night, leaving him only three shy of the exclusive 600-homer club.

After Mike Trout doubled off the center-field wall at Tropicana Field, Pujols hammered a 3-1 fastball from Tampa Bay starter Erasmo Ramirez to left field, giving the Angels an early 2-0 lead. Pujols' sixth homer of the season had an exit velocity of 97 mph, and traveled an estimated 392 feet, according to Statcast™.

"When I fell behind 3-1, I tried to be aggressive instead of being careful with Pujols," Ramirez said. "He still has power, and he showed me that in that first at-bat."

It marked Pujols' first home run since May 9. A sore right hamstring forced Pujols to miss the Angels' three-game series against the Mets last weekend, but he returned to action against the Rays and entered Wednesday 1-for-7 over the first two games at Tropicana Field. Overall, the 37-year-old slugger is batting .244 with six home runs and 34 RBIs this season.

Pujols is seeking to become the ninth player in Major League history to hit 600 home runs, joining a list headed by Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).

"It'll happen, and we're looking forward to it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've got a lot on our plate right now. Albert, when he gets there, he'll know he contributed, so he'll feel good about. It's an incredible accomplishment, no doubt about that."

Pujols' milestone homer wasn't enough for the Halos on Wednesday. They could not muster anything after the first inning and were held to four hits by Ramirez, snapping their three-game win streak.

"We hit some hard balls, but we came up short," Pujols said. "Obviously, Ramirez kind of made some pitches and got out of some innings. It doesn't matter how hard you hit the ball if it doesn't fall. At the end of the day, we just didn't have enough to win today."

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.