Albert Pujols' first game against the Cardinals was much easier on him emotionally in his new home at Angel Stadium than it would have been in St. Louis.
The three-time NL MVP, who spent his first 11 seasons with the Cardinals before signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with Los Angeles in December 2011, was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a walk as the designated hitter. But the Angels got plenty of offense against Lance Lynn and won 5-1 on Tuesday night in the Cardinals' first game at the "Big A."
"It was cool to see Albert. He's friends with a lot of us, and I'm sure he was excited to see us, just like we were to see him," St. Louis third baseman David Freese said. "But I think Albert goes about every game the same way — whether it's day one of the preseason or day one of the postseason. And that's a huge reason why he's so successful."
The first time Pujols came up, he tapped catcher Yadier Molina's shin guard with his bat and Molina tapped Pujols on the back of the helmet with his glove — a subtle but meaningful display of affection and respect between two All-Stars who were teammates for nine seasons and won two World Series rings together. Pujols then struck out, and Molina threw out J.B. Shuck at second for an inning-ending double play.
"It was a little weird. But I was fine, guys. I swear. I'm being honest," Pujols said. "I mean, it would have been a little different if it was in St. Louis.
"I mean, you can't forget the special times you had with those guys during those 11 years there. That's something nobody can take away — the success I had there and how those fans and everybody in the community treated me. Every time I get an opportunity to watch them, I root for them because I still have a lot of good friends there, and I still stay in touch with a lot of those guys. But these are three days that I won't be able to root for them."
St. Louis was the only NL club that had never played in Anaheim, having hosted the three previous interleague series between the teams in 2002, 2007 and 2010. The Cardinals won five of the nine meetings between the teams in St. Louis.
Left fielder Matt Holliday was a late scratch because of tightness in his neck, hampering a Cardinals lineup that had averaged a league-best 7.04 runs of support for Lynn in his other 16 starts this season. Molina was 2 for 4, raising his NL-leading average to .347.
"It was good to see Yaddy and good to see him having the year that he's having," Pujols said. "I would love for him to win the batting title. He's like my little brother, and I'd do anything for him. I don't think I've ever seen anybody prepare himself for a game like he does. That's something that I saw over and over in St. Louis. He never takes anything for granted, no matter how he's doing at the plate."
Molina returned the compliment.
"Albert is a great human being. He's a great leader, a great teammate and a great person," Molina said. "There is no doubt he helped me a lot. He was my teammate, my brother for many years."
Mark Trumbo, who started at first base in place of Pujols, turned in a defensive gem in the eighth, after the Cardinals loaded the bases against Kevin Jepsen. Scott Downs came in and struck out rookie Matt Adams before finishing a spectacular 3-6-1 double play, after Trumbo made a slick play in the hole on a hard-hit grounder by Freese.
"We had a good chance of getting two runs across right there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We had a rally going, and it was a great play. We put together some pretty good at-bats in that inning, but they did what they had to do to get out of it."
Lynn (10-3) gave up five runs and nine hits in six innings, striking out eight. The 26-year-old right-hander, coming off a 4-3 loss last Wednesday at Houston, has dropped back-to-back outings for the first time in 1½ big league seasons spanning 48 starts.
The Angels sent 10 batters to the plate in the second. Lynn gave up singles to six of his first seven hitters, including run-scoring hits by Trumbo, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar and Shuck. Aybar scored when second baseman Matt Carpenter misplayed Mike Trout's grounder up the middle for an error with a chance to force Shuck.
"You try to get them to hit it at people," said Lynn, who ended the inning by striking out Pujols and Josh Hamilton. "They had a good approach. They hit them through the holes. I gave up six singles. They just happened in a bunch real quick. You don't think you're going to give up five runs. That's just something you don't think is going to happen, but it did tonight, so you just move on to the next one."
Jered Weaver (2-4) allowed a run, six hits and no walks over seven innings. The right-hander struck out five in his ninth start of the year, working with runners on base in every inning but the seventh.
Weaver was in the stands at Busch Stadium in 2006 when his brother and former Angels teammate Jeff pitched the clinching victory for the Cardinals in the World Series. Pujols' first game against St. Louis came on the same night that the Angels' ace tied his brother's career win total with No. 104.
"He did some pretty special things over there with that club, and obviously I'm sure they were disappointed to see him go. But that's the business side of baseball," Weaver said about Pujols. "He had a tough decision to make. But those fans in St. Louis are pretty special. It doesn't matter if the opposing team makes a great play — their fans are up clapping. I think they have a lot of respect for what Albert did over there."
NOTES: A ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Stan Musial's grandson, Brian Schwarze, with Pujols as his catcher. Musial, who died on Jan. 19 at age 92, was honored with a video tribute following the first inning. "Stan was my buddy," Pujols said. "I wish I would have had more opportunities to talk to him. When he walked into the clubhouse, it was like a light that was so bright. It was amazing. Everybody would stop what they were doing." ... Shortly after Pujols joined the Angels, he took offense to promotional billboards put up throughout Southern California that heralded him as "El Hombre" — or "The Man." Pujols requested they be taken down, saying that only Musial — whose moniker was "Stan The Man" — should ever be referred to in that manner. ... The Angels wore circular patches with Musial's name and No. 6 on the front of their jerseys, which they will do throughout this series. The idea for the unique tribute came during spring training. "It's out of the respect that everyone in baseball has for Stan Musial and his legacy, and obviously the connection with Albert," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We wanted to honor a great person and a great ballplayer in a very classy way, and we're proud to wear them."