Rookies can't contain Pujols on historic night

September 19th, 2020

Rangers rookie pitchers Wes Benjamin and Demarcus Evans were introduced to Angels future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols on Friday night. They’ll likely remember the encounter even if the memory isn’t a good one.

Pujols hit home runs off both of them to help carry the Angels to a 6-2 victory over the Rangers at Angel Stadium in the first of a four-game series. The Rangers have lost three of four to start their nine-game final road trip.

“Albert has hit 662 of them,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Hats off to Albert, he is still a pretty good player. I don’t think there is anything that needs to be said to our pitcher. They threw some pitches and he hit them out.”

The Rangers were trailing 1-0 going into the fifth when Benjamin faced Pujols for the second time. Pujols singled off Benjamin the first time they faced each other. This time, Pujols turned on a 1-2 fastball and hit it over the left-field wall into the Angels’ bullpen.

“I know he is not really a home run hitter …” Benjamin said afterward.

Benjamin was joking.

It was Pujols’ 661st home run of his career, passing Willie Mays for fifth place in Major League history.

“I threw the one pitch I didn’t want to throw,” Benjamin said. “I wanted a fastball up and it just kind of yanked into the zone just enough and he was prepared for it. Their entire lineup are great hitters.”

The Angels scored another run off reliever Jesse Chavez in the sixth and the Rangers trailed 3-0 going into the seventh against right-hander Jamie Barria. Then they made it a one-run game when Ronald Guzmán singled with one out, Anderson Tejeda doubled and Willie Calhoun brought them both home with a two-run single.

That made it a 3-2 game and that’s when Woodward decided to have Evans make his Major League debut. Pujols was waiting as the first hitter up that inning.

“I thought it was kind of cool to be honest with you,” Woodward said. “Pujols had an amazing career. I thought it was fine for D-Train to face him. Just go right at him.”

Evans missed high with a fastball on his first pitch. Evans threw another one and Pujols hit it again into the Angels’ bullpen for another home run.

Pujols now has 27 career home runs against the Rangers, tying him with Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez for the 25th most against the Rangers in club history.

Evans then faced Justin Upton and hit him in the helmet with a 94 mph fastball on a 1-1 count. Upton hit the ground face down and had to leave the game. Initial reports were positive on Upton’s condition.

Evans was able to regain his composure and get out of the inning. He retired Max Stassi on a fly to deep center and got Taylor Ward to ground into an inning-ending double play.

“Once he got comfortable, you could see the life on the ball and he was attacking the strike zone,” Woodward said. “I’m glad that played out the way it did, I was a little worried about a younger player, things can kind of snowball you at that point. He did a good job at the end.”