Published June 05, 2013
ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Chicago Cubs' bullpen has allowed 17 home runs through the first 56 games this season, and the one Carlos Villanueva gave up to Albert Pujols was easily one of the most aggravating for manager Dale Sveum to watch.
Erick Aybar greeted Villanueva with a leadoff single in the eighth inning Tuesday night, and Pujols drove the right-hander's first-pitch fastball over the double-decker bullpen in left field one out later to erase a potential win for Scott Feldman and help the Los Angeles Angels send the Cubs to a demoralizing 4-3 loss.
"He wasn't supposed to even come close to throwing that pitch in that situation," Sveum said with a tinge of disgust. "Somewhere down the line, we lost the scouting report from the bullpen to the mound."
Villanueva (1-4) was understandably downcast in the clubhouse.
"It caught too much plate. It's as simple as that," he said. "If I make a better pitch there, maybe it's a different result. But Pujols is a great hitter. I don't really have to say that. So to a hitter, you can't miss by that much over the plate in that situation. He did what he was supposed to do — put it in the seats."
The home run was the 484th of Pujols' career and 54th against the Cubs, who have given up more to the three-time NL MVP and former St. Louis Cardinals star than any other club.
Pujols' ninth of the season not only got Angels ace Jered Weaver off the hook, but also third baseman Alberto Callaspo — whose third-inning fielding error led to a pair of unearned runs.
"I knew it was out of the park as soon as I hit it," Pujols said. "It just felt good because it gave us the lead. Even though Weaver didn't get the win, he pitched very well and gave us a chance to score some runs and come out with a win."
Weaver is 0-2 with two no-decisions in four starts against Feldman, who spent his eight previous big league seasons with the AL West-rival Rangers. In their previous head-to-head duel, on Sept. 19, 2009, Feldman won 3-2 at Texas for the 17th and final win of his best season in the majors.
"You realize it's going to be tough to scrape up runs against Weaver because he's one of the best," said Feldman, who allowed two runs and six hits in six-plus innings. "He's always going out there and leaving his heart on the field."
Feldman took a 3-1 lead into the seventh before former Rangers teammate Josh Hamilton led off with a double and scored on Howie Kendrick's third single of the game, which made him 8 for 18 against the right-hander. James Russell came in and retired the next three batters, including Callaspo on a sacrifice bunt.
"Feldman's got good stuff," Weaver said. "He's kind of changed his approach over the years. He was a hard thrower and a mid-90s (mph) guy, and now he's mixing in that split-finger and that cutter a lot. So he's kind of developed into a great pitcher and he's obviously proven that this year. He kept our guys off balance, but we were able to battle back and get that big homer by Pujols to put us back on top."
Weaver struck out five and was charged with an earned run and six hits over six innings in his fourth start this season and second since coming off the disabled list. Robert Coello (2-1) pitched a scoreless eighth and Ernesto Frieri got three outs for his 13th save in 14 attempts.
The Cubs snapped a 1-all tie in the third after Callaspo fumbled David DeJesus' leadoff grounder on the infield grass, his fifth error this season and fourth in three games. One out later, Weaver walked Anthony Rizzo and gave up an RBI single to Alfonso Soriano. Ryan Sweeney, who had three hits, delivered the second run of the inning with a two-out single — his first RBI in 26 career at-bats against Weaver to that point.
"Callaspo came up and said he was sorry — but at the same time, no apology was needed," Weaver said. "He's a pretty proven guy with the glove over there at third base and he makes some great plays over the course of the year. Besides, you can't dwell on that stuff. Things like that are going to happen during the course of a game. So you just try to limit the damage when stuff like that happens and keep battling."
NOTES: Soriano, the Cubs' regular left fielder, was 2 for 4 with a double in his first game as a designated hitter this season. He was the DH in all six games the Cubs played in AL ballparks last year, going 9 for 25 with four homers, eight RBIs and two walks. ... With another Los Angeles vs. Chicago confrontation going on up the freeway at Staples Center between the Kings and Blackhawks in Game 3 of the NHL's Western Conference finals, the baseball game drew 32,223 — 4,772 below the Angels' season average. ... This is the Cubs' second visit to Anaheim since interleague play began in 1997. They took two of three in 2004. ... Chicago is 1-18 when allowing more than three runs and 22-5 when holding opponents to three or fewer. ... One catcher picked off the other at first base in the second inning when Chicago's Welington Castillo caught Chris Iannetta leaning too far off the bag with runners at the corners.