Albert Pujols comes through for Angels in 4-3 win over Padres

Albert Pujols comes through for Angels in 4-3 win over Padres
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols breaks his bat while hitting a bases loaded single to drive in the game-winning run in the ninth inning. The Angels won 4-3. (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)

The stoicism that cloaks Albert Pujols during a game had vanished, at least for the moment. This was a game-winning moment, a walk-off moment, and Pujols let the world share in his enjoyment.

He smiled, broadly. And he stared into the dugout of the team he had just beaten.


"Just part of the game, man," Pujols said later, his emotions back in check. "Exciting moment."

That it was, the walk-off single that gave the Angels a 4-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Monday. But there was the back story too: the Padres intentionally walked Mike Trout to get to Pujols.

"It's not rocket science," Pujols said. "If I was the manager, I would have done the same thing."

That does not diminish the pride Pujols takes in his game, and the reputation he has earned as a Hall of Famer in waiting, and one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. Trout is 23, and yet the Padres decided the mighty Pujols would be the easier out.

Pujols insisted he was not offended.

"It doesn't make any sense to let the best player on the team beat you," Pujols said.

This has been a trying season for Pujols. The Angels desperately need his production, with Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton subtracted from last season's lineup.

Pujols, the three-time most valuable player, is batting .228 overall, .176 with men in scoring position.

"He's hit some balls hard," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "You look at his average; it's not what you expect to see from Albert. His bat speed and everything is good.

"He'll be fine. He's Albert. He's going to find it and get it done."

The happy ending obscured the second guessing. The Angels had a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning, and they blew it.

Jered Weaver had the shutout working, a three-run lead and a guy batting below the Mendoza Line due up. One more out was all Weaver would need to get through seven innings, with setup man Joe Smith in line for the eighth inning and closer Huston Street in line for the ninth.

Scioscia had seen enough. He yanked Weaver in favor of Jose Alvarez. He faced three batters. Three runs scored.

Scioscia said he wanted to give Alvarez some margin for error and preferred the next couple matchups against Alvarez to those against Weaver.

"Obviously, it didn't work out," Scioscia said.

"It didn't work out, but we won," Weaver said. "That's all that matters."

Weaver pitched brilliantly, mixing a fastball that did not hit 90 mph with a curve that did not hit 70 mph.

Weaver, who faced 26 batters, was charged with one run. Alvarez, who faced three batters, was charged with two runs. Weaver has a 1.50 earned-run average in his last four starts.

As the Angels batted in the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied, 3-3, Padres Manager Bud Black opted for Kevin Quackenbush rather than closer Craig Kimbrel. If Quackenbush could get the bottom three batters out, the Padres could save Kimbrel for the 10th inning.

But, with one out, Marc Krauss walked and Johnny Giavotella singled. The Padres would not use Kimbrel to start the inning with the score tied, but now they would use him with two on, one out and the score tied.

Erick Aybar struck out, with Trout to follow.

"I was ready to hit," Trout said. "I thought they were going to pitch to me."

They walked him, loading the bases for Pujols, whose broken-bat single won the game.

"He's been there, done that," Trout said. "He's a machine."