Pitch to Pujols or Trout? 'It's a tough one,' Black says
ANAHEIM -- When Mike Trout came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday with runners on the corners and two outs, Padres manager Bud Black was left to mull over a difficult decision.
Do you pitch to Mike Trout or do you walk him, set up a force at any base, and instead pitch to Albert Pujols?
"It's a tough one, it really is," Black said afterwards. "You have got, arguably, the best player in the game [Trout] and a future Hall of Famer [Pujols]. Pick your poison is a good term."
Black went with the smart play, walking Trout, who lined out to right field and doubled off the left field wall earlier in the game.
That left Padres closer Craig Kimbrel to face Pujols, who was hitless in his last 11 bats. Kimbrel missed with a curveball on his first pitch and reached back for a 98-mph fastball.
Pujols got his hands through the ball, slightly up and in, breaking his bat. But he got enough to direct the ball into left field for the game-winner, as the Angels topped the Padres, 4-3.
"I was actually trying to go away and that was one of those that ran up on his hands," Kimbrel said. "… He's a strong guy and he was able to get enough through the ball to get it into the outfield with a broken bat."
The inning started with reliever Kevin Quackenbush on the mound. He got Carlos Perez to line out to center field to start the inning. Then he issued a five-pitch walk to the No. 8 hitter, Marc Krauss.
"I wanted to get ahead and I didn't do that. You can't walk a guy on five pitches," Quackenbush said.
The No. 9 hitter, Johnny Giavotella, then bounced a ball up the middle, sending Krauss to third base. That's when Black when to the bullpen for Kimbrel, who blew leadoff hitter Erick Aybar away on a 99-mph fastball for the second out.
Then came the unpleasant decision: Trout or Pujols. So what factors did Black and the Padres weigh before ultimately deciding to walk Trout?
"In a decision like that, you go with what you think is the best matchup. That's what it was," Black said. "Trout is a great player and he swung the bat well tonight. Albert looked, tonight, like he wasn't swinging the bat all that great."
Pujols was 0-for-4 with a strikeout before his last at-bat. Even with that hit, he's batting .228 overall this season. Trout is down to .299 after getting one hit in four at-bats.
"Craig against Albert isn't ideal … and neither is Trout against Craig," Black said. "We thought this was the move to make."
Quackenbush (1-1) took the loss in a game the Padres trailed 3-0 entering the seventh inning. But they rallied to tie the game.
As for Kimbrel, he's allowed hits in his last five outings and has a 5.63 ERA. He has also saved 11 of 12 games.