DETROIT -- Albert Pujols is hitting home runs as frequently as he has in eight years, and is now two away from history.
Pujols' ninth-inning solo homer against Tigers closer Joe Nathan on Saturday went for his team-leading sixth of the season and the 498th of his career. Two more, and the Angels' first baseman will become the 26th member of the exclusive 500-home run club.
Through a team spokesman, however, Pujols reiterated on Saturday morning that he doesn't want to talk about his chase of 500 homers because he doesn't want it to be a distraction to the team.
"Let's wait until I hit it," Pujols told MLB.com recently. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to be pretty emotional about it -- but it depends how it happens, too."
At this rate, Pujols' 500th homer will come away from Southern California. The Angels have seven more road games -- one in Detroit, three in Washington D.C. and three in the Bronx -- before returning to Angel Stadium, where a sign has been placed beyond the right-center-field bleachers to count down Pujols' chase.
Six homers is tied for the second most through 17 games in Pujols' career, topped only by the 11 he hit in the first 17 contests of the 2006 season. Pujols also homered six times in his first 17 games in 2010, '09 and '04. His '14 slash line after Saturday's 5-2 loss is .282/.354/.606.
"To me, Albert hits the way you should," Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire said recently. "He knows the strike zone and he doesn't miss many pitches. The last couple of years, he hasn't hit for average like he did, but he's been hurt. A foot and knee, it's the lower half. People don't think about the lower half, but that's the key and he hasn't had it. And he's still put up numbers."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less