By Alden Gonzalez and Sarah K. Spencer
PITTSBURGH -- Albert Pujols turned on a chest-high, 94-mph fastball from Pirates setup man Tony Watson and sent it screaming over the left-field fence at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon, blasting a two-run shot that gave the Angels a 5-4 victory over the Pirates.
The Angels trailed by three and were down to their last seven outs when C.J. Cron and Gregorio Petit hit back-to-back RBI doubles in the seventh, cutting the deficit to one and forcing Pirates starter Gerrit Cole out of the game.
Kole Calhoun led off the eighth with a single. Two batters later, Pujols hit a ball 103 mph off the bat, according to Statcast™, giving him his 12th home run this season and the 572nd of his career -- one away from Harmon Killebrew for 11th place on the all-time list.
The Angels took two of three in the series, improving to 26-30. The Pirates have dropped five of their last six games and fell to 30-26.
"I'm just glad that I got the [bat head] out," Pujols said. "I think I got some good pitches to hit in this series, and I just kept missing them. That one, I was able to square it up."
Deolis Guerra, who spent last season with the Pirates, struck out the side in the seventh and recorded the first two outs in the eighth. Huston Street followed with a four-out save, in his second appearance since coming off the disabled list, to give Guerra the win against his former team.
The Pirates put runners on second and third with one out in the ninth, prompting Street to intentionally walk Starling Marte and load the bases. The next batter, Sean Rodriguez, bounced into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game. Pujols rolled his left ankle stretching to his right to catch the throw, but he walked off on his own power and said he's "all right."
"I thought there was no chance we turn it," Street said of a double-play ball that began with a slow roller well to the right side of shortstop Brendan Ryan, who checked in late for defense. "As soon as the ball was hit, I started thinking about what pitches I was going to throw to [the next batter, Matt Joyce]. I really did. That was one of the quickest turns of my career. Of my life."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Some words: Cole singled on a line drive in the sixth and was later driven in by Josh Harrison. Cole was seemingly lectured by Pujols upon reaching first base. Pujols took exception to the way Cole appeared to stare down and bark at his teammate, Calhoun, in the top of the inning, after Calhoun worked a full count and lined out to first base. More >
Said Cole: "That conversation will stay on the field."
"Whatever I had to say, I said it to him," Pujols said. "And that stays between me and him."
Started from the bottom: Cole was cruising until he ran into the bottom of the Angels' lineup in the seventh inning. Cron stepped into the No. 8 spot and drilled an RBI double to center field, giving him only his sixth hit in 28 career pinch-hit at-bats. Petit, the No. 9 hitter, followed with a hard ground ball that traveled just beyond the reach of a diving Rodriguez at first base, recording his third of four extra-base hits in the last four games.
Sacrificing the body: The Angels staged a two-run comeback in the seventh inning as Cole gave up two RBI doubles in a row. The streak of doubles might have continued had Marte not laid out to catch Yunel Escobar's line drive to center field and close the inning. More >
Off rhythm: Angels starter Hector Santiago needed 90 pitches to complete four innings and was unable to record an out in the fifth for the third time in his last four starts. The main culprit was the second inning, which included three walks and a hit-by-pitch. Santiago has a 6.69 ERA over his last eight starts, but manager Mike Scioscia said he's "so close" to being effective, like he was earlier in the year.
"It's almost there," Santiago said. "It was there early on, and it's just about being able to control velocity. I'm just trying to harness it and understand it, where it's going, what my body has to do to harness that velocity with command. For the most part, it's there. Today, there were some pitches that were just off."
"We beat a really good pitcher out there today, or at least hung with him. It took us a lot of our bullpen to get to a certain point, but all the guys did a nice job. And we got to their 'pen. We just kept playing baseball."-- Scioscia, on a big series win against a good team
"Nothing's different. The only thing different is the location of the pitches. I'm finding a lot of barrels right now, and it's frustrating, but you know, as a reliever, you've just got to show up tomorrow and you've gotta be ready to play again."-- Watson, on giving up a two-run shot to Pujols
Angels setup man Joe Smith said after Saturday's game -- one in which he issued two walks and hit a batter in a scoreless eighth inning -- that his left hamstring has been nagging him for the better part of the last three weeks. Smith is determined to not let the issue land him on the DL, but he was unavailable to pitch the eighth inning on Sunday. More >
"It's out of my hands now," Smith said about having to go on the DL. "I've dealt with it for a while now. Sosh and I talked yesterday and I said, 'Hey, man, I'll leave it up to you guys. I'll pitch, but whatever's best for the 25 guys that are running out there every day, I'll do that.'"
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the second inning, Carlos Perez was originally ruled safe at first base and awarded a single. Upon a challenge by the Pirates, the call was overturned, as Harrison had tossed the ball to Rodriguez before Perez made it to first.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: The Angels start a four-game series at Yankee Stadium, with Matt Shoemaker (3-6, 5.50 ERA) facing off against Masahiro Tanaka (3-1, 2.78 ERA) at 4:05 p.m. PT on Monday.
Pirates: Jonathon Niese (5-2, 4.36 ERA) will start against his former team for the first time on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET as the Mets visit PNC Park. Niese is coming off a no-decision against Miami, when he gave up two earned runs and six hits in five innings. Former Pirate Neil Walker, who went to New York in the Niese deal, is returning to Pittsburgh for the first time since the trade.