Albert cleans up, powers Halos past D-backs

Albert cleans up, powers Halos past D-backs

ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols' 11th home run in his last 18 games lifted the Angels to a 4-1 win over the D-backs at Angel Stadium on Tuesday night. His high-arcing two-run blast into the rocks beyond the center-field wall in the sixth inning and David Freese's two-run shot to right in the eighth gave the Angels a split of the two-game series.

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Arizona starter Jeremy Hellickson had been cruising for most of the night, limiting the Angels to three hits in the first five innings. The right-hander still finished with a solid six innings of two-run, four-hit, six-strikeout baseball, but his offense couldn't get much going against Garrett Richards or the Halos' bullpen.

Richards had to pitch out of trouble early, including a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first inning that he escaped from unscathed. Richards went seven innings -- allowing an unearned run on four hits and three walks. Joe Smith pitched the eighth for his Major League-leading 18th hold, and after Freese provided the insurance, Huston Street pitched the ninth to earn his 20th save.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pujols cleans up: The Angels moved Mike Trout into the third spot in the batting order Tuesday, and Pujols hit cleanup for just the sixth time since 2003 -- and in their new positions, the duo combined to produce the Angels' first lead of the game. With the Angels trailing, 1-0, in the sixth inning, Trout drew a two-out walk, and Pujols followed with a long two-run homer to dead-center field that made it a 2-1 game. It was his first homer out of the cleanup spot since April 4, 2003. More >

"I don't think the new lineup was either here nor there tonight," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I don't think it had any effect on things. You had some clutch hits from some guys that are important to us. Mike started it off with two outs, and Albert getting a 2-1 count and not missing a fastball, obviously that's huge."

Aybar fields deflection

Missed opportunity early: With one out in the first, the D-backs loaded the bases against Richards and seemed like they could get to the right-hander before he settled in. But Richards managed to strike out Yasmany Tomas and was able to deflect Jake Lamb's liner back up the middle, which allowed Erick Aybar to get to it and throw out Lamb to end the threat.

"It's a whole different ballgame if we can get some runs in there," D-backs catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.

Kubitza, Pujols combine for out

Two dives, one play: After the Angels took the lead in the sixth, their defense helped hold onto it in the seventh. With two outs, A.J. Pollock hit a sharp ground ball into the hole between third base and shortstop, but third baseman Kyle Kubitza made a diving stop. His throw to first almost pulled Pujols off the base, but the first baseman made an outstretched catch while falling down and held the bag for the out.

"Kyle, he has the potential to be a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman," Scioscia said. "He's gonna have to work his way into that, get his feet on the ground, understand the hitters -- but he's got really good hands, he's got a fine arm that's really accurate, and he's very agile."

Still good: It didn't result in a win, but Hellickson's quality outing continued a run of good starts by the rotation. Over their last five games, D-backs starters have a 1.07 ERA.

"Last five games have been played pretty well," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "We go home now against these guys and we'll see how we do at home." More >

QUOTABLE
"The guy is just unbelievable. I get front-row seats on-deck a good portion of the time, just watching him hit. He looks healthy, man. His legs look powerful. I think he's getting down in his stance and he's ready to go every pitch." -- Freese, on Pujols

WHAT'S NEXT
D-backs: The D-backs return home to open a two-game set with the Angels at Chase Field on Wednesday night. Chase Anderson, who has allowed just one run over 12 2/3 innings in his last two starts will take the ball for Arizona.

Angels: Left-hander Hector Santiago will be on the hill (and at the plate) for the Angels in the first of two more Interleague games against the D-backs, but in Arizona. Santiago has responded from a rocky first start of June with a scoreless long relief effort against the Yankees and 5 2/3 innings of two-run baseball against the A's in his last start.

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Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.