- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Albert Pujols almost had consecutive triples after going more than four years without one. Instead, he ended up with a chance to complete the first cycle of his career.

The Los Angeles slugger tried a little too hard in both cases and missed out. It didn’t keep the Angels from adding to their big lead in the AL West.

Pujols tripled to open the scoring and finished a home run shy of the cycle, rookie Matt Shoemaker had another strong start, and the Angels beat the Texas Rangers 8-1 on Wednesday night.

“It would have been pretty cool,” Pujols said. “It’s not easy. That’s why you don’t see it every day. Obviously, everybody says the hardest part is to get that triple, which I believe it is.”

The AL West-leading Angels (90-55), who are nine games up on Oakland after the A’s lost at the Chicago White Sox, were the first team in the majors to 90 wins with their season-high seventh straight victory.

Shoemaker (15-4) set a franchise rookie record for victories by winning his sixth straight decision.

Texas right-hander Nick Tepesch (4-10) has just one win in 12 starts.

Pujols’ first-inning triple made Mike Trout the sixth player in major league history to score 100 runs in three seasons before turning 23. It was the first triple for Pujols since July 10, 2010, when he played for St. Louis.

In the third, Pujols’ fly ball eluded a leaping Michael Choice and caromed off the right-field wall. Choice ran the ball down and threw to Elvis Andrus, who tagged Pujols trying to scramble back to second.

Pujols, who playfully tugged at Andrus’ cap as he jogged back to the dugout, had a single in the fifth.

The Rangers intentionally walked Trout to load the bases for Pujols in the sixth, but he grounded into an inning-ending double play. Pujols reached on a throwing error by Andrus and scored in the eighth, and then admittedly was swinging for the fences when he grounded out to Andrus in the ninth.

“I think everybody was aware,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “In the big picture, I don’t think it’s one that he needs on his shelf, but it would have been nice to see.”

Shoemaker, who broke a rookie wins record tied most recently by Frank Tanana in 1974, came close to pitching at least seven shutout innings for the fourth time in five starts. He came out after giving up Ryan Rua’s RBI single with two outs in the seventh.

“I think Shoe is one of the big reasons why we’re even contending,” Scioscia said. “When he got his chance to get in the rotation, to do what he did is spectacular for us.”


Trout reached base three times and scored twice to push his season total to 101 runs. The other five players to score 100 runs in three seasons before turning 23 were Mel Ott, Buddy Lewis, Ted Williams, Vada Pinson and Alex Rodriguez.


Interim Texas manager Tim Bogar has used at least five pitchers in four of his five games since replacing Ron Washington. He made three pitching changes in a seven-run eighth inning for the Angels on Tuesday. He used six pitchers for the first time Wednesday, and the Angels scored five runs in the last three innings.


Angels: Josh Hamilton missed his sixth consecutive game with a sore right shoulder. He took two more injections Tuesday and woke up sore Wednesday. He hopes the injections will lead to dramatic improvement in the next couple of days, but there is no timetable for his return.

Rangers: C Robinson Chirinos could be back behind the plate Thursday night after missing nine games with neck stiffness. … Bogar says it is likely OF Jake Smolinski (broken left foot) will play again this season. He has been on the disabled list since July 25.


Angels: RHP Cory Rasmus (3-1, 2.81) will make his third straight start after 24 relief appearances to start the season. He threw three scoreless innings in a 2-0 win over Oakland on Aug. 30 before giving up two runs in 1 2-3 innings in an 8-5 win over Minnesota last week.

Rangers: Rookie RHP Nick Martinez (3-10, 5.03) is looking for his first win at home after nine previous appearances, including seven starts. He has a 6.81 ERA at home. He has allowed six hits in five straight starts, the second Texas pitcher to do that (Charlie Hough in 1982).

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