'Tio Albert' smacks 2-run HR against Halos

Offense erupts to back strong effort from Buehler in Freeway Series finale

August 9th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- When signed with the Dodgers in May, the future Hall of Famer said there were “no hard feelings” toward the Angels after the organization designated him for assignment just two months into the season.

This weekend, Pujols was able to reunite with his former teammates and coaches. He had a brief chat with Shohei Ohtani and shared a warm embrace with Angels general manager Perry Minasian before Friday’s game.

But for Pujols, nothing felt better than showing his former team that there’s still plenty of firepower left in his bat. Pujols, who came into the game as a pinch-hitter, smacked a two-run homer off left-hander Reid Detmers in the third inning of the Dodgers’ 8-2 win over the Angels on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

“I’m sure that felt good for him and we were obviously ecstatic for him,” said Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler. “He’s been a huge part of our team since he got here and we’re certainly glad to have him.”

With the Dodgers adding Trea Turner and most of the starters healthy for the first time this season, Pujols has seen his playing time diminish over the last few weeks. He’s still expected to make an impact against left-handed pitching, though he didn’t get the start on Sunday. If Justin Turner, who left Sunday’s game with left groin discomfort, is forced to miss some time, then Pujols could see his at-bats increase.

But regardless of what happens with his playing time moving forward, Pujols has certainly made an impact on the Dodgers. He is now “Tio Albert” (Uncle Albert) around the team and his post-homer celebratory hugs have become a team favorite. Pujols has produced on the field, too. He has 14 homers -- nine with the Dodgers -- but none was sweeter than his blast on Sunday.

“I’m just glad I was able to contribute today to the ballclub and help our ballclub win the series today,” Pujols said. “That’s the first time I saw some of those guys since I got released. I still have a great relationship with 95 percent of those guys over there. But at the end of the day, we all have a job to do and that’s to get ready to play the game.”

While Pujols’ blast capped off the three-run third, he wasn’t the only one to have a solid offensive game for the Dodgers. Max Muncy and AJ Pollock continued to swing a hot bat and Trea Turner showed off his blazing speed for the second consecutive game, scoring from first on a Pollock single in the third.

Then in the seventh, Cody Bellinger delivered the exclamation point with a two-run blast. It was the second time this season that Bellinger has homered in back-to-back games.

“Probably the best part of the day outside of just winning a ballgame is him taking 95 mph on the top of the zone, back-spinning it for a homer,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts of Bellinger. “That’s the most exciting thing for me, for the Dodgers. For us to go where we need to go and expect to go, he’s a big part of it.”

The offensive outburst was more than enough for Buehler, who continued his sensational season. Buehler walked three and didn’t have his best command with the four-seam fastball, but he continued to find ways to be dominant.

In a game in which the Dodgers needed length from Buehler, the right-hander delivered, allowing one run over six innings. Buehler has gone at least six innings in 22 of his 23 starts this season.

“I think the command just wasn’t there, but he found a way to go six and that’s what great pitchers do,” Roberts said. “Not having his best stuff and still navigating a lineup to give us six innings. Well done.”

With 50 games left in the regular season, the Dodgers find themselves four games behind the Giants in the National League West. The Dodgers head to the East Coast to take on a red-hot Phillies team and a slumping Mets team. With the Giants playing the D-backs and Rockies, the upcoming week could be a big one for the Dodgers.

“I think when you have the talent and the team that we have, I think, honestly, we’re more worried about playing good baseball and playing to our expectations,” Buehler said. “I kind of believe that the rest will take care of itself.”