ANAHEIM, Calif. — Two players enjoyed very productive days at the plate in Sunday’s Major League Baseball match-up between the Los Angeles Angels and the Tampa Bay Rays. But that is about where the similarities between sure-fire Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and former Bishop Luers High School standout Kevin Kiermaier, who was called up from Triple A due to a teammate’s leave for bereavement, end. For now at least.
Pujols hot a pair of home runs to lead the Angels to a 6-2 win, but Kiermaier did what he could – both offensively and defensively - to help his team despite the defeat.
Los Angeles pitcher Michael Morin relieved starter Matt Shoemaker (2-1) with a 5-0 lead and retired his first batter before Kiermaier made personal history. He crushed hit his first big league homer — a drive to left that kept carrying until it disappeared in the lower seats in the left-field corner. But that wasn’t the first big moment for Kiermaier.
In the second, Kiermaier, starting in center field for the third time in the majors, robbed Los Angeles’ Erick Aybar of extra bases with a leaping catch while crashing against the 18-foot wall in right-center field.
Pujols got to Tampa Bay’s ace, David Price with frequency Sunday.
Even when he hit his spot, Price couldn’t keep Albert Pujols in the ballpark.
The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner gave up a pair of solo homers to the three-time National League Most Valuable Player.
“David did not throw the ball badly,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said after his team dropped three of four in the series. “His velocity and location looked really good from the side. I thought they had a decent approach against him. I’m not going to say what I saw, but it looked like a pretty good approach on their part — and they executed it. Of course, Pujols hitting home runs always helps.”
Pujols drove Price’s 0-2 pitch over the center-field fence in the first inning and capped the scoring in the seventh with his 12th homer of the season. The Rays’ ace has allowed five home runs on an 0-2 count in his career, and Pujols has hit 21 under those circumstances.
“That’s where I wanted to throw it, but that’s what great hitters do with pitches that are up in the zone,” Price said. “He’s one of the best hitters to ever play this game.”
Pujols increased his career total to 504 home runs, tying Eddie Murray for 25th place. Price became the 319th pitcher to give up a regular-season homer to Pujols.
“Price is going to throw his game, but we had a game plan and we tried to execute it,” said Pujols, who came in 0 for 7 against the left-hander. “The same way that we do our scouting report, they do theirs, so he knows how to pitch us. We just needed to make adjustments, and that’s what we did. He made a couple of mistakes and we took advantage. With a guy like him, you need to be aggressive, because he’s only going to give you one or two good pitches in four at-bats.”
Price (4-4) was charged with six runs — five earned — and 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out seven and walked none.
The three-time All-Star, who has allowed no more than one walk in a franchise-record 13 consecutive starts dating to last season, went to a three-ball count on five Angels batters. But he’s paid the price for his major league-best strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s given up 78 hits, tying Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee for most in the majors.
“That’s part of it,” Price said. “I want those guys to put the ball in play because I have the utmost confidence in our defense. You’re going to give up your hits sometimes, and sometimes they’re going to be at guys.”
Howie Kendrick gave the Angels a 2-0 lead with a two-out RBI single in the third, and they increased the margin to 5-0 with three runs in the fourth after Price gave up three straight singles with none out. The third one was a drive by Grant Green over the head of left fielder Matt Joyce, scoring Erick Aybar.
“Price is an All-Star, he throws 95-97 (mph), he’s got great stuff,” Angels catcher Chris Iannetta said. “So you don’t try to be overly aggressive, because you can get yourself out on good pitches.”
Luis Jimenez followed Green’s hit with a sacrifice bunt, and two more runs scored when third baseman Evan Longoria booted Collin Cowgill’s grounder near the bag for his third error of the season.
Angels starter Matt Shoemaker (2-1) was charged with a run and two hits in six-plus innings. He struck out six, five days after earning his first major league win with a 4-3 victory at Philadelphia. The 27-year-old right-hander was lifted after issuing his third walk, to James Loney leading off the seventh.