Published November 20, 2014
Albert Pujols takes plenty of risks while playing first base. Whenever the two-time Gold Glove winner has the chance to get the lead runner, he takes it — regardless of the base or the inning.
So when speedster Dee Gordon of the Los Angeles Dodgers broke for third on a grounder wide of first in the first inning on Saturday, Pujols ignored the sure out and went for Gordon.
But the low throw bounced up and glanced off Gordon, allowing him to score. Jerry Hairston Jr., who hit the ball, came home three batters later on another throwing error by third baseman Maicer Izturis, and the Angels lost 3-1 in the Freeway Series, despite Ervin Santana's second straight solid effort.
"That's a play that I make a lot," said Pujols, who made a similar risk in Game 4 of last year's NL Division Series to help St. Louis beat Philadelphia. "I saw him in the corner of my eye, and I figured if I throw him out right there, they don't score that inning. It was a gamble play. I know it's early in the game, but that isn't going to take any aggressiveness out of me.
"I'm an aggressive player. If it happens again tomorrow and I've got an opportunity, I'm going to try to do it again."
Santana (4-8) was charged with three runs — two earned — and four hits over eight innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks. The right-hander, coming off a one-hit shutout against Arizona, retired 21 of his last 24 batters. He has allowed one earned run in 16 innings over his last two starts, after going 1-1 with a 10.18 ERA over his previous four outings — including a 10-8 win at Colorado.
"It's good to see him throwing the ball pretty well — but at the same time, we didn't score a lot of runs for him," Pujols said. "It's tough to win games when you don't score, and that's what happened to him in April.
"He was able to keep us in the game and give us an opportunity to win."
Santana retired 13 consecutive batters after Izturis' error, but Gordon broke the string in the sixth with a leadoff triple over the head of left fielder Mark Trumbo. Hairston drove in the Dodgers' third run with a sharp single off Izturis' glove as he played the ball near the line.
Santana and Dodgers lefty Chris Capuano (9-2) both benefited from a late-afternoon starting time. Capuano allowed a run and seven hits, struck out four and walked none, helping the NL West-leading Dodgers snap a four-game skid.
The Angels put runners on against him in every inning except the second, including leadoff hits in each of his last four innings. But all they had to show for it was an RBI single by Erick Aybar in the fifth.
"He does a really good job of making pitches," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "When guys are on base, the opposing hitters are a little more aggressive. And that plays into Cappy's hands because of his ability to throw his off-speed stuff. Cappy's been amazing, the way he's been throwing the ball — and it started in spring training."
Pujols had two singles off Capuano after getting plunked with an 0-2 pitch in the first inning, and is batting .553 against the eight-year veteran with five home runs.
"He was mixing his pitches in and out and keeping us off-balance," the three-time NL MVP said. "He threw a great game. He kept the ball down, made the pitches when he needed to and got a couple of double plays. But it was also pretty tough to see the ball after the second inning with those shadows out there. I'm not making any excuses, but you should have seen the way both sides were taking swings. It was ridiculous. But you can't take anything away from Capuano."
The Angels could have done even more damage in the fifth after cutting the Dodgers' lead to 2-1. But center fielder Elian Herrera robbed Torii Hunter of extra bases with a leaping catch at the fence in left-center for the third out, preventing the potential tying and go-ahead runs from scoring.
Ronald Belisario pitched a scoreless eighth and Kenley Jansen worked a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 15 chances.
NOTES: Gordon has 22 stolen bases in 29 attempts, including his steal of second base in the first. Trout, who has 20 steals in 23 chances, swiped second in the eighth after his leadoff single against Belisario. ... The Angels are 29-16 at home against the Dodgers during the regular season and 53-38 overall against them. ... Trumbo is batting .318 with 17 homers and 48 RBIs with 14 games left before the All-Star break. The only two players in club history to hit at least .315 with 20 homers and 60 RBIs before the break were Garret Anderson (2003) and Vladimir Guerrero (2004).