With two outs, the score tied and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Pujols unleashed a line drive deep into the left-center-field gap, sending the Angels to a thrilling, 4-3 walk-off victory at home on Thursday night and proving, once again, that there's no real right answer in these situations.
"I stay focused in that situation," Pujols said. "I know how to handle myself. I'm not automatic. There's times that you're going to get yourself out, and there's times you're going to come through. That's how it goes, man."
Pujols' 1,699th career RBI gave the Angels their first win of the season, after being outscored, 15-1, in a two-game series against the Cubs. And it made the Rangers open a season with three losses in four games for the first time since 2007.
Despite loading the bases with none out in the bottom of the eighth, the Angels could not score, but rallied with one out in the ninth. Johnny Giavotella lined a single and Yunel Escobar drew a four-pitch walk against Rangers setup man Sam Dyson. Lefty Andrew Faulkner got pinch-hitter Carlos Perez to ground out softly, putting runners on second and third with two outs, then walked Trout to load the bases for Pujols.
Pujols, who entered the at-bat 1-for-11 to start the season, turned on a 1-0, 93-mph fastball from Shawn Tolleson to win the game.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pesky Esky: Escobar, who put together a solid spring, getting on base 49 percent of the time, came up with a couple of key two-out hits Thursday. The Angels' new leadoff hitter clobbered the Angels' first home run of the season, a solo shot well beyond the left-field bullpen that traveled a projected 407 feet, according to Statcast™. He then kept the Angels' rally going with a run-scoring line-drive single to right in the fifth.
"We faced good pitching tonight and got it done," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose offense had just seven hits in the first two games. "It was a good sign."
Holland loses lead with walks: Rangers starter Derek Holland had a 2-1 lead going into the fifth, but walked Kole Calhoun, the Angels' No. 6 hitter, to lead off the inning and Geovany Soto with one out. That cost him after Giavotella flied out. Escobar singled home one run and Craig Gentry doubled home another to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. More >
"I can't give away free passes like that," Holland said.
Bringing heat:Hector Santiago's fastball sat mostly in the 91- to 92-mph range since he joined the Angels in 2014. Against the Rangers, though, Santiago was hitting mostly 93-94 mph with his fastball, relying on it heavily while allowing just two runs on two hits and two walks in the first six innings, striking out seven. More >
"I don't know what I was throwing in Spring Training and all that, but I think that adrenaline gets you going," Santiago said. "I definitely felt good. Obviously it's the first game of the season, so everything is going to feel better."
Chirinos goes deep: The Rangers had just one hit through five innings, a home run by Robinson Chirinos in the third. It was just the second home run by a Rangers batter in four games. The Rangers got an unearned run in the first on a walk, an error, a balk and Prince Fielder's sacrifice fly.
"Four hits," Banister said. "We've got to find a way to get this offense going."
"I know it's Mike Trout, but it's also Albert Pujols. As a pitcher, you don't want to face either one of those guys. But, I mean, it's Albert Pujols. He makes a habit out of getting those hits -- being clutch, big moments. You've seen it throughout his entire career." -- Angels closer Huston Street, on walking Trout to pitch to Pujols
"We were not going to let Trout beat us. Obviously you pick your poison with those two guys but you still have to make pitches on both of them." -- Banister
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Adrian Beltre, who turned 37 on Thursday, has not distinguished himself offensively on his birthday. He made a couple of excellent defensive plays on Thursday night but was 0-for-4 at the plate. He is 9-for-50 on his birthday in his career and his only birthday home run came in 2003.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Right-hander A.J. Griffin pitches against the Angels at 9:05 p.m. (CT) Friday at Angel Stadium. Griffin will be making his first start since Sept. 24, 2013. He was signed as a Minor League free agent in the offseason and he won a spot as the fifth starter in Spring Training.
Angels:Matt Shoemaker makes his season debut in the second of a four-game series. The 29-year-old right-hander endured a rough spring, giving up 19 runs on 30 hits (nine of them homers ) in 25 innings. But he has a 2.39 career ERA against the Rangers.