He could have struggled to shut out the noise as a sellout crowd roared every time Albert Pujols, the former Cardinal, appeared on the video boards Friday night at Busch Stadium.
“We just couldn’t muster up any runs,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
Before Angels reliever Luke Bard allowed three runs in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach, all that had hurt the Angels was a balk call that elongated Canning’s fourth inning to 28 pitches and a hanging slider that Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna hit for a home run in the sixth off Canning.
One thing that has become a feature of Canning’s outings is the right-hander putting himself in tough spots. . He’ll often lose tenacity for an inning and baserunners pile up. Such was the case Friday, when he issued three walks in the fourth inning after retiring the first nine batters he faced. In the midst of it, Ozuna fisted a fastball into left field for a run-scoring single that tied the score 1-1.
“That’ll give me ulcers but he seems to get out of it,” Ausmus said. “As long as he keeps getting out of it, I’m OK.”
Canning (2-4) was annoyed too. He has found it difficult to adjust to hitters when navigating his second time through a lineup.
“That’s always it, just trusting my stuff,” Canning said. “Even when I did fall behind earlier in the game, I was able to get guys out.”
He found his balance long enough to make it through 5 1/3 innings, over which he gave up only two runs, scattered four hits and struck out three.
Canning stayed on the hook for the loss as the Angels (38-39) went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and fell below .500.
But the action in the game was a footnote to the occasion 48,423 people bought tickets to witness.
In front of the second-largest crowd in stadium history, Pujols, a three-time most valuable player during his 11 years with the Cardinals, was always in the spotlight.
He received a standing ovation a few times during pregame warmups, all three times at the plate and again when Ausmus replaced him with a pinch-runner when the Angels trailed 2-1 in the seventh inning.
“It was cool with all the fans here and the energy,” Canning said. “Obviously I wish I did little better but it was definitely a good atmosphere.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout fouled a pitch off his right knee in the third inning and was in obvious pain for a few minutes. He remained in the game, going two for three with a walk. He said he was scared after the moment of contact but the discomfort eased. He did not expect to sit out Saturday’s game. … One night after playing extra innings, the Angels made a series of moves to shore up the depth in their bullpen. Relievers Bard and Jake Jewell were recalled from triple-A Salt Lake while rookie starter Jose Suarez and reliever Taylor Cole were optioned back to the Bees. Ausmus said he’d like Suarez, who turned in some impressive performances in the wake of injuries to starters Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, to focus on becoming more comfortable with his breaking pitches while he is back in the minor leagues. … The Angels don’t expect to be without backup catcher Kevan Smith, on the 10-day injured list because of a metacarpal strain, for long. Imaging revealed no breaks in his left hand. … Cahill, working his way back from elbow inflammation, gave up seven runs and six hits with one walk in a 2 1/3-inning rehab start at Salt Lake. He struck out five.