May 6, 2012
Pujols' first homer sinks Jays in L.A.
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI AGENCY
ANAHEIM - It was going to happen sooner or later. The Blue Jays would have preferred later.
In his 111th at-bat as a Los Angeles Angel, Albert Pujols connected with a Drew Hutchison slider in the fifth inning Sunday, sending it over the left-field fence for a two-run home run.
With that, the longest homer drought in Pujols’ storied career ended. Better yet for the Angels, it provided the difference in a 4-3 victory to salvage a split of this four-game series.
Pujols is in the first season of a 10-year, $240-million contract and the pent up demand for some production had gotten to the point he was being booed after every out. Those boos changed to a thunderous, prolonged ovation for his 446th career homer — but first in the American League.
That blast made a winner of righthander Jerome Williams, who gave up eight hits and two earned runs in 6⅓ innings of work.
“I made a bad pitch,” Hutchison said. “I was trying to bounce it and I left it up. Bad pitches get hit.”
After shutting the Angels out the first two games, Toronto could not get a third win, losing 6-2 on Saturday and then again Sunday.
“I don’t think we are satisfied,” manager John Farrell said. “I don’t know we can ever be satisfied splitting a series when we had ourselves set up for a series win.
“We gave ourselves some opportunities offensively. The two-out hit was a little bit elusive. We had a few things that didn’t shake out our way.”
Hutchison pitched into the sixth inning, allowing four runs on eight hits without a walk.
“I thought Hutch kept things under control,” Farrell said. “He continued to battle and make quality pitches.”
Toronto opened the scoring in the third inning with Eric Thames’ two-out single that scored J.P Arencibia from third base.
L.A. took a 2-1 lead in the fourth, combining four hits, including RBI singles by Mark Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo. The Trumbo single was a hot shot right back at Hutchison. The ball glanced off the pitcher’s arm but if he had been able to field it cleanly, it probably would have been a double play.
“It kicked up on me,” Hutchison said. “That’s really frustrating for me. I should have made that play and if I wasn’t going to make it, I should have just gotten out of the way because we had him played up the middle.”
In the fifth, Mike Trout led off with a double for the Angels. One out later, Pujols came to the plate, homerless in 110 at-bats, most in his career. He looked at two balls, took a called strike, fouled off a pitch, then drilled the next one into the Angels’ bullpen.
The crowd erupted in a five-minute celebration as if the Pujols homer had just won the pennant. They were still cheering when Kendrys Morales flew out to left, ending the inning.
“I’m not really concerned about any of (the Pujols celebration),” Hutchison said. “It’s the fact that anyone who hits a two-run homer in that inning hurts our team and that was the difference in the game. That’s what I’m more upset about.”
The Jays got a run back in the sixth on Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly that cashed Jose Bautista, who had doubled leading off. They got another in the seventh on Kelly Johnson’s RBI single that scored Arencibia.
In the eighth inning, after Adam Lind walked to lead off, Rajai Davis came on to pinch run, representing the tying run. Twice Encarnacion fouled pitches with Davis trying to steal second base.
With two strikes on the batter, Davis took off a third time and failed to realize that Encarnacion had popped up the pitch. Shortstop Erick Aybar faked out Davis at second and, after the ball was caught, they doubled up Davis at first.
“I thought Rajai was obstructed in trying to get back to first base but obviously Brian (Knight, the umpire) didn’t see it that way.
“That’s a difficult play for a baserunner. He’s going in with a head-first slide and not seeing the ball.”
“My focus was to get into scoring position,” Davis said. “I was out there to steal a base and everything else went blank.”
VIZQUEL IS ONE FOR THE AGES
Being 45 and still wearing a major-league uniform puts a guy in rather unique company so Omar Vizquel is accruing some “firsts” simply by accident in his 24th season in the big leagues.
Sunday, he became the oldest player ever to start a game at shortstop, erasing St. Louis Cardinals’ Bobby Wallace from the record books. Wallace was 44 when he played 12 games at shortstop for the 1918 St. Louis Cardinals.
Earlier this season, Vizquel became the oldest player ever to get a base hit for the Blue Jays. And just last week, Vizquel became the fourth-oldest player to be ejected from a game when he was banished for arguing balls and strikes.
“When you go back 100 years to look for records, it’s pretty amazing actually,” Vizquel said. “I couldn’t believe I am still jumping around and playing shortstop at this age.
“I feel pretty good about my physical condition. It’s hard, but I’m getting used to this situation where you come off the bench. That’s what guys who have backup roles have to do.”
Vizquel singled in the fifth inning and drilled a hard liner back to the pitcher in the ninth that ended the game.