Published January 13, 2015
Albert Pujols hasn't come through in the clutch much this season, but on Tuesday, he finally delivered when it counted.
Pujols and the LA Angels of Anaheim target back-to-back wins and a quick sweep of the Chicago Cubs Wednesday in the finale of a two-game series at the Big A.
In Tuesday's 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Cubs, Pujols cracked a go- ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to help the Angels halt a four-game slide and win for the 11th time in the past 17 tries. Pujols, a Cubs' nemesis from his days in St. Louis, homered for the first time since May 23 and took Carlos Villanueva deep for his ninth home run of the season.
"I knew it was out of the park as soon as I hit it," Pujols recalled. "I'm sure (Villanueva) wanted to get it inside, but he left it up and in the middle and I put a good swing on it."
Pujols finished with three RBI, Howie Kendrick had three hits and drove in a run and Erick Aybar added two hits and a pair of runs scored for the Angels. Josh Hamilton doubled and scored a run in the win, while Jered Weaver started and allowed three runs -- one earned -- in six innings for the no-decision.
Robert Coello picked up the win with a scoreless eighth and Ernesto Frieri struck out two and worked around a hit in the ninth for his 13th save.
Anaheim is 3-4 on an eight-game homestand and will start a six-game road trip Friday against Boston and Baltimore.
The Angels have won each of Jason Vargas' last six starts and look to keep that trend going Wednesday. Vargas is 5-0 with a 2.30 earned run average in that time and threw seven innings of two-run, five-hit ball in last Thursday's 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Vargas has pitched at least seven innings in four straight outings and is 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA in 11 starts. The left-hander is 4-1 in six home assignments and 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs.
The Cubs are mired in a three-game losing streak since ripping off five straight wins.
Villanueva was saddled with the loss after giving up Pujols' blast and Scott Feldman held the Halos to a pair of runs in the first six innings.
"I got too much of the plate and that was it," Villanueva said of his pitch to Pujols. "He did what he was supposed to do. He hit it in the seats."
Ryan Sweeney, Nate Schierholtz and Alfonso Soriano all drove in one run for the Cubs, who are 5-9 in the last 14 games.
Chicago will return to Wrigley Field after Wednesday's game to start a seven- game homestand Friday versus Pittsburgh (3 games) and Cincinnati (4 games).
Matt Garza will make his fourth start of the season for the Cubs Wednesday and he is 1-0 with a 3.38 earned run average in his first three outings. He won for the first time in 2013 last Friday versus Arizona and allowed two runs in seven innings with four K's and no walks in a 7-2 triumph.
Garza, a right-hander, owns an 0-1 mark with a 5.87 ERA in four career starts against the Angels.
The Cubs lost two of three to the Angels back in 2010 at Wrigley Field and last played at Anaheim in 2004, winning two of three from June 11-13.