Albert Pujols delivers for Dodgers in 8-2 win over the Angels
It was a matchup between the Angels’ future and their past, the rookie pitcher they recently called up against the veteran slugger they unceremoniously released earlier this season.
Albert Pujols wasn’t in the Dodgers’ starting lineup against Angels left-hander Reid Detmers on Sunday. But after Justin Turner exited early with left groin discomfort, Pujols came to the plate and made his former club pay.
Pujols hit a two-run home run in the second inning of the weekend’s Freeway Series rubber match, putting a rubber stamp on the Dodgers’ 8-2 win with a 418-foot blast halfway up the left-field pavilion.
The Dodgers (67-45) had already scored three runs before that. Starting pitcher Walker Buehler was well on his way to a suffocating six-inning, one-run start against a shorthanded Angels lineup.
And Pujols, who was facing the Angels over the weekend for the first time since they cut him in early May, insisted going deep against his former club didn’t have any extra meaning.
“I didn’t put too much thought about it,” Pujols said. “It can look sweet since it’s against your former team, but I don’t look at it like that. I look at it like every time I’m out there, no matter who we’re facing, trying to help our ballclub win.”
New Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer dazzled fans in his debut in the team’s win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
Still, as his home run sailed through the afternoon sunshine, a crowd of 46,982 at Dodger Stadium came to life. Though the future Hall of Famer might not have shown any animosity toward the Angels over the weekend — “I still have a great relationship with 95% of those guys over there, it’s great to say hello,” Pujols said — his 676th career home run still resonated a little deeper with his new team.
“It’s an interesting situation when you’ve got a guy of that stature that’s playing against his old team,” Buehler said. “It’s just a little bit different. I’m sure that felt good for him.”
After close games on Friday and Saturday, the series finale revealed the gulf separating the two Southland clubs — especially with the Angels (56-56) playing without Mike Trout (right calf strain), Jared Walsh (right intercostal strain) and Shohei Ohtani (whose designated hitter’s spot was unavailable in the National League series) in their batting order.
Detmers, making his second career start, gave up five runs in five innings. He flashed better feel for his breaking pitches than he did in his debut on Aug. 1, but also struggled with fastball command and got little help from his infield defense.
Buehler also didn’t have his best fastball command, which contributed to four walks, but cruised nonetheless. The right-hander struck out eight, gave up only four hits and lowered his ERA to 2.13, best among qualified National League pitchers.
“Was lucky to get out of there with the one run,” Buehler said. “And obviously, the offense put me in a pretty good position.”
Indeed it did.
The Dodgers tallied two runs in the first inning on RBIs from Max Muncy and Justin Turner, the latter aided by a bad throw home from shortstop José Igleisas. They added insurance late with an RBI single from AJ Pollock in the sixth and a two-run homer by Cody Bellinger in the seventh, his second home run in as many games as he tries to emerge from a season-long slump.
“Probably the best part of the day outside of winning a ballgame is him taking 95 [mph on a pitch] at the top of the zone and back-spinning it for a homer,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Bellinger’s home run. “That’s the most exciting thing for me.”
But it was in the second inning that the Dodgers broke open the game.
With two outs, speedy Trea Turner, who was running on the pitch, scored from first on a soft ground ball that snuck under second baseman David Fletcher’s glove.
And in the next at-bat, Pujols hit his third career pinch-hit home run — delivering a gut punch to his old team while once again exemplifying the value he’s providing to his new one.
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“I didn’t have much preparation, but when my name was called I made sure I was ready to go,” said Pujols, who drew an intentional walk later in the game.
“I’m excited. It’s been another opportunity with a great organization. And I love these guys. I said it early and I’ll keep saying it all year long: I feel like I’ve been part of this team since Day 1.”
The feeling is mutual.
“He’s been a huge part of our team since he got here,” Buehler said. “We’re certainly glad to have him.”
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