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."
Freese still out with quad tightness
DETROIT -- David Freese was out of the Angels' lineup for a second straight day on Saturday, nursing the tight right quadriceps muscle he sustained during his last at-bat of Wednesday's 12-inning game.
The Angels' third baseman, batting .151/.207/.208 to start the season, took ground balls and batting practice prior to the game and is hopeful he can return to the lineup on Sunday.
Albert Pujols, meanwhile, started at designated hitter for the third time this year, prompting Raul Ibanez to make his second start at first base. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Pujols suffered a bone bruise while hitting his left heel on the base in the first week of the season, but said that it's "nothing significant."
Asked if the bone bruise is still bothering Pujols, Scioscia said, "It's minimal. It's not an issue."
Iannetta hopes walk-off win could be defining moment
DETROIT -- Angels catcher Chris Iannetta was on the 2007 Rockies team that won 14 of its last 15 games and steamrolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs, winning seven in a row until the Red Sox swept them in the World Series. And to this day, Iannetta can recall the defining moment -- the second of a doubleheader against the Dodgers on Sept. 18, when Todd Helton turned a one-run deficit into a walk-off win with a two-out, ninth-inning two-run homer.
After that, the Rockies never felt like they were out of a game. The win had galvanized them, and that never-say-die mentality, Iannetta believes, played a big part in making up 4 1/2 games in the National League Wild Card race with 12 to play.
"It's huge," Iannetta said, "but there's a lot of things that go into that. It's team chemistry, it's how much will you have to win. It's all those things that you don't see in a stat line, it's all those things that you don't see on the field. It's stuff that players see in the clubhouse and amongst themselves that carry over into their work. It carries over into the way that they eat in the food room together, the way that they're in the training room and weight room, and then carries over into BP and then in the game it shows up. But you'll never see that in a stat line."
Iannetta's hope is that Wednesday's 12-inning win over the A's, which ended on his own walk-off homer, could have a similar impact.
"It's not just going to be one win, but it's a group of wins that defines a team from an identity standpoint," Iannetta said. "It helps with your chemistry in the clubhouse. Those things are very important. If you have good chemistry and you're a very united group, really good things can happen."
Angels' early power in full supply
DETROIT -- This Angels offense surely isn't short on power, even without the contributions of an injured Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun.
Entering Saturday, the Angels led the Majors with 27 homers. That's the most in franchise history through the first 16 games, three more than they hit in all of April last year and seven shy of the club record for March/April (34 in 2000). Twelve of their players have a home run, which is the most in baseball, and 49 percent of their runs have come via the long ball, which ranks third.
With J.B. Shuck's first-inning homer against Max Scherzer on Saturday, the Angels have now homered in 15 of their 17 games.
Scioscia seeks change to transfer rule
DETROIT -- At this point, Mike Scioscia fully understands how umpires are enforcing the transfer rule.
That's not the issue.
"It's very clear on what it is -- the rule needs to be changed," the Angels' manager said Saturday morning. "I think the days of a purposeful release making it a catch are long gone. That's when the gloves were like oven mitts. I think when you catch a ball and you have possession with a glove closed on it, that catch ends, now the transfer begins. I think that's the clarity that that rule needs, and hopefully it will be addressed."
The division-rival Mariners were involved in a transfer ruling on Friday night, when third baseman Kyle Seager bobbled the forceout that umpires overturned just before Giancarlo Stanton's game-winning grand slam, but that one seemed a little more distinct.
A smaller violation of the rule occurred at the Mariners' ballpark 11 days earlier, when Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton caught a fly ball from Corey Hart, then dropped it as he was throwing it back into the infield, prompting umpires to overturn an initial out call that Hamilton later described as "terrible."
Now that expanded instant replay has been introduced, Major League Baseball has told umpires that "if a fielder loses possession of the ball during the transfer before the ball was secured by his throwing hand" it is no longer a catch. Scioscia, and several of his players, would like to see more common sense injected into the way that rule is interpreted.
"The transfer rule has to be adjusted, particularly for a routine catch," Scioscia said. "Hopefully it will be."
• Left-handed reliever Sean Burnett, still recovering from last August's elbow surgery, recently threw a bullpen session in Arizona that Scioscia called "outstanding."
"I know he was really excited about it and the way he felt afterwards," Scioscia said.
• Right-handed reliever Dane De La Rosa, in Arizona rehabbing a sore shoulder, played catch and "is feeling better." De La Rosa is eligible to be activated by April 28, but there's no word on his timetable yet.
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.