The northbound lanes of the 57 freeway were shut down early Wednesday afternoon and Albert Pujols was just three miles from Angel Stadium when he realized the end of his commute might take him nearly an hour.
The Angels were playing a rare 5 p.m. game. Pujols had planned to arrive at least two hours before first pitch. When he finally rolled into the Angels empty clubhouse, he had less than 75 minutes to prepare for a game the Angels needed to win to avoid being swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pujols, a veteran of 19 seasons and a hoarder of major league records, did not panic. He got in the cold tank, soaked in the hot tub and milled around the batting cage for about 20 minutes.
Pujols compressed his routine but did not skimp on his performance. He propelled the Angels to a 7-4 victory with a two-hit, three-RBI game. During the game, he became the all-time hits leader among players born outside the United States with 3,168, eclipsing fellow Dominican Adrian Beltre’s record by two hits.
“What more can we say?” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game, one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. He’s gonna pass some other names, I’m sure, that are very well known and have plaques in Cooperstown. I’m kind of running out of accolades.”
Yet it was more impressive that Pujols did what he did in his 96th game — in a mid-August series finale.