Familiar face comes back to haunt Cubs
Pujols hits go-ahead two-run homer in eighth as Chicago drops opener
ANAHEIM -- The Cubs have watched Albert Pujols hit home runs over 11 seasons with the Cardinals. He came back to haunt them Tuesday night.
Pujols launched a two-run homer with one out in the eighth inning to lift the Angels to a 4-3 Interleague victory over the Cubs, who have had games end this way too many times this season.
The slugger began the night with 53 career homers against the Cubs, most against any opponent, and notched No. 54 in the eighth. The Angels trailed, 3-2, when Erick Aybar singled to lead off against Carlos Villanueva, and one out later, Pujols drove the first pitch -- an 89-mph fastball -- into the left-field seats.
"It got too much plate, it's as simple as that," Villanueva said. "Pujols is a great hitter -- I don't really have to say that. If I make a better pitch there, maybe it's different results. With a hitter like that, you can't miss over the plate that much. He did what he's supposed to do, put it in the seats."
It was Pujols' ninth home run of the season, and first since May 23. It was his first go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later since joining the Angels. He had 41 with the Cardinals, and a few of those were against the Cubs as well.
"Sometimes [pitchers] let go of the ball and that's what happens," Pujols said. "Sometimes we put good swings and don't get the success that we want, but it goes the same way for [pitchers]. I'm pretty sure he wanted to paint it inside, or I don't know where he was going, but he left it up in the middle, and I was able to just be aggressive and put a good swing."
Villanueva said he wanted to throw a fastball in, but the pitch caught too much of the plate and it was a little flat.
"It was a perfect pitch for him to hit, pull down left field, and it was probably exactly what he was looking for," Villanueva said. "If I throw the pitch and it does what it's supposed to do, maybe he hits a foul ball. It got too much of the plate and he hit it hard."
This was Villanueva's sixth relief appearance after eight starts, but the right-hander didn't use that as an excuse.
"I was ready to go," he said. "I actually felt pretty good."
The trouble is, Villanueva's pitch was not what the Cubs' scouting report called for.
"We were not supposed to even come close to calling or throwing that pitch in that situation," manager Dale Sveum said. "It's the human factor. Somewhere along the line, we lose the scouting report from the bullpen to the mound."
This isn't the first time the Cubs have had a late lead and blown it. Unfortunately for them, it's the 19th game they've lost in which they've had a lead, most in the National League.
"We seem to beat a lot of people through seven innings," Sveum said. "It tends to be a broken record. Our starters have been great all year."
How do you fix it?
"That's the million dollar question," Sveum said. "Obviously we're having trouble fixing it."
Sveum didn't consider walking Pujols in that situation.
"[Mark] Trumbo could've done the same thing with the same pitch," Sveum said of the Angels' No. 4 hitter who followed Pujols in the lineup. "He's been a little bit hotter than Pujols has been."
Nate Schierholtz, Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Sweeney each hit RBI singles for the Cubs, who were in line for their sixth straight Interleague win.
Sveum had tweaked the lineup, moving Starlin Castro from second to seventh, but it didn't help the shortstop, who went 0-for-4 and is now 2-for-24 in his last six games.
Luis Valbuena, inserted into the No. 2 spot, was hit by a pitch with one out in the first against Jered Weaver, advanced on Anthony Rizzo's single and scored one out later on Schierholtz's single. However, the Angels tied the game in their half as Aybar doubled to lead off, moved up on Mike Trout's infield single and tallied on Pujols' sacrifice fly.
In the third, David DeJesus reached on an error by third baseman Alberto Callaspo, his fourth in the last three games, and one out later, Rizzo walked to set up Soriano's RBI single. With two outs, Sweeney added a RBI single for a 3-1 lead.
Josh Hamilton doubled to lead off the Halos' seventh and scored on Howie Kendrick's single to chase Scott Feldman, who is very familiar with the Angels after his days in the American League West with the Rangers. Feldman scattered six hits over six-plus innings but received a no-decision.
"It was one of those nights I just had to battle out there," Feldman said. "I got ahead of some guys and wasn't able to put them away. They were fighting me to the end."
Speaking of fighting, both Feldman and Villanueva wanted to get back in the game as soon as possible.
"I'd like to see [Villanueva] out there tomorrow to get them out," Feldman said.
This was the Cubs' second trip to Angel Stadium, with the previous visit occurring in 2004. That year, the Cubs won two of three games.