WASHINGTON -- Albert Pujols said it late Monday night, after the 4-2 victory his defense helped make possible, as if he has to remind people every so often these days.
"I'm a two-time Gold Glover."
Pujols showed that in the opener of a three-game series, when he barehanded a slow roller by Anthony Rendon to record an out at home and help Garrett Richards get through a stressful fourth inning with only one run across. He showed it on April 15, intercepting a throw home from Kole Calhoun to tag Eric Sogard out as he rounded first base. He showed it on April 14, sprawling to his right to start a key 3-6-3 double play and maintain a one-run lead in the eighth inning.
Now that his left foot is no longer stricken by plantar fasciitis, allowing Pujols to start 17 of the Angels' 20 games at first base, he gets to show it a lot more often.
"There's no doubt," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "that where his health is right now and how his lower half feels, that he's playing first base at the Gold Glove caliber that you would expect."
Pujols gives all the credit for his defense to longtime Cardinals infield coach Jose Oquendo, who, among other things, taught him "to separate my at-bats from my defense."
"And every time I put on that glove, if I'm 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, I'm going to make sure that the other goes 0-for, too," Pujols said. "I separated that early in my career, and I take a lot of pride in that, because I work hard on my defense. I don't take anything for granted."
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.