Pu­jols car­ries An­gels’ of­fense

He shows more signs of break­ing out of his slump, driv­ing in five runs against Phillies.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike DiGio­vanna

No mat­ter how good Mike Trout is — and the cen­ter fielder has been tran­scen­dent since he reached the big leagues for good in 2012, with two Amer­i­can League most valu­able player awards and three run­ner-up fin­ishes — he alone can­not lead the An­gels to a World Se­ries.

That’s been proved over the last five years, when the An­gels have had the best player in base­ball and zero play­off vic­to­ries to show for it.

Trout needs help, and though it will take nu­mer­ous im­pact play­ers to push the An­gels to­ward pen­nant con­tention, a late-ca­reer re­vival by Al­bert Pu­jols would be a good start.

The 37-year-old slug­ger en­tered Tues­day with a .233 av­er­age, .280 on-base per­cent­age and .385 slug­ging per­cent­age, all ca­reer lows on his Hall-of-Fame re­sume, but he is be­gin­ning to stir.

Pu­jols gave his team a lead with a two-out, two-run dou­ble in the fifth in­ning Tues­day night, and he put the game out of reach with a three-run homer in the sev­enth, driv­ing in five runs of a 7-1 vic­tory over the Philadel­phia Phillies in An­gel Sta­dium.

This came on the heels of Sun­day’s two-homer game in Toronto, a power surge that ended an 0-for-24 skid and, com­bined with Tues-

day night’s shot, gave Pu­jols 608 ca­reer homers, one shy of Sammy Sosa for eighth place on base­ball’s all-time list.

“I don’t think about the strug­gles, it’s as sim­ple as that,” Pu­jols said. “I don’t care what you guys say or write, I play for God, fam­ily and friends.”

Pu­jols’ big night — he has six hits and nine RBIs in his last two games — pushed the An­gels to within four games of Kansas City for the sec­ond wild-card spot and gave him a team-high 68 RBIs on the sea­son.

“This is what Al­bert can do,” man­ager Mike Scios­cia said. “When he gets locked in and is on some pitches, he can put a team on his shoul­ders and carry it.”

Pu­jols’ power en­sured that Ricky No­lasco, who al­lowed one run and six hits in six some­what shaky in­nings, strik­ing out five and walk­ing two, would earn the win to im­prove to 5-12.

No­lasco es­caped a two-on, one-out jam in the first af­ter he com­mit­ted an er­ror that led to Philadel­phia’s run, and he es­caped a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth to pre­serve a 2-1 lead, get­ting Maikel Franco and Nick Williams to fly out and strik­ing out Hyun-Soo Kim with a splitfin­gered fast­ball.

“Ricky im­pro­vised, and he pitched,” Scios­cia said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but when he needed to make a pitch, he did, whether it was a fast­ball he lo­cated or spin­ning the ball with a good split. He scratched and clawed and got through six in­nings. He got some big outs.”

So did rookie reliever Key­nan Mid­dle­ton in the sev­enth, af­ter An­drew Knapp led off with a dou­ble to left and speedy lead­off man Ce­sar Her­nan­dez reached on an in­field sin­gle, a grounder An­drel­ton Sim­mons fielded, pumped a throw to sec­ond and threw late to first on.

Freddy Galvis flied to cen­ter, ad­vanc­ing Knapp to third, but Mid­dle­ton struck out No. 3 hit­ter Aaron Altherr swing­ing at a 98mph four-seam fast­ball and cleanup man Tommy Joseph look­ing at a 93-mph two-seam fast­ball to snuff out the rally and pre­serve a 2-1 lead.

Kaleb Cowart led off the bot- tom of the sev­enth with a sin­gle, Trout sin­gled with one out, and Pu­jols, fac­ing reliever Mark Leiter, curled his 17th homer of the sea­son around the left-field foul pole for a 5-1 lead. The An­gels tacked on two more runs in the eighth.

The An­gels put to­gether a quick-strike, two-out rally in the fifth that Yunel Es­co­bar, who de­parted in the eighth be­cause of up­per back tight­ness, sparked with a sin­gle to cen­ter. Trout walked, and Pu­jols sliced a dou­ble to right to score both run­ners for a 2-1 An­gels lead.

Asked if he was look­ing for some­thing out­side, Pu­jols said, “No, I just closed my eyes and hit it the other way.”

Her­nan­dez opened the game with an in­field sin­gle, and Galvis flied to cen­ter. Altherr tapped a grounder be­tween the mound and first base, an easy play for No­lasco. The ball squirted out of the pitcher’s glove for an er­ror. Joseph grounded an RBI sin­gle to left to give Philadel­phia a 1-0 lead.

Jae C. Hong As­so­ci­ated Press

MIKE TROUT of the An­gels scores on a dou­ble by Al­bert Pu­jols.

Jae C. Hong As­so­ci­ated Press

CE­SAR HER­NAN­DEZ of the Phillies leads off the game with a sin­gle, beat­ing the throw to first base­man Luis Val­buena of the An­gels. Her­nan­dez scored the game’s first run.

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