PITTSBURGH (AP) – Albert Pujols hit a two-run home run off Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Tony Watson in the top of the eighth inning to lead the Los Angeles Angels to a 5-4 win Sunday.
It was Pujols’ 30th career home run at PNC Park, the most of any road ballpark for the 36-year-old slugger. Pujols also had a sacrifice fly in the first inning to give him three RBIs in the game.
Watson (1-2), the Pirates usually reliable set-up man, has now allowed seven runs in his last 2 1/3 innings. He failed to protect the lead for Pirates starter Gerrit Cole, who allowed three runs over 6 2/3 innings.
Deolis Guerra (1-0) struck out three over 1 2/3 innings of relief and picked up his first win with the Angels. The Pirates loaded the bases in the ninth against closer Huston Street, but Sean Rodriguez grounded into a game-ending double play.
An ineffective outing from Los Angeles starting pitcher Hector Santiago opened the door for the Pirates’ offense. They took advantage of five walks and a hit batsman to take an early lead. Of the 90 pitches thrown by Santiago, just 55 of them were strikes.
Starling Marte plated Jordy Mercer with an RBI single in the first. With the bases loaded in the second, Santiago walked Gregory Polanco and hit Jung Ho Kang, bringing in a pair of runs.
After Pujols’ sacrifice fly scored Yunel Escobar in the first, Cole allowed just one hit over the next five innings, but got into trouble in the seventh, when C.J. Cron and Gregorio Petit hit back-to-back RBI doubles, chasing the Pirates’ ace. Marte, playing center field in place of usual starter Andrew McCutchen, who was given the day off, made a diving catch on an Escobar line drive to end the threat.
Los Angeles shortstop Andrelton Simmons is expected to begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Monday and could be active as soon as the weekend. Simmons, who had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb, has been out of the Angels’ lineup since May 9.
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli (foot) and third baseman David Freese (hand) each missed their third consecutive game.
Angels: RHP Matt Shoemaker (3-6, 5.50 ERA) will take the mound as the Angels visit the New York Yankees to start a four-game series.
Pirates: LHP Jonathon Niese (5-2, 4.36 ERA) will face his former club, the New York Mets, for the first time since being traded to Pittsburgh in December in exchange for second baseman Neil Walker. Niese has induced 89 ground ball outs this season, which leads the Pirates’ staff, and his 1.75 ratio of ground balls to fly balls is the seventh-highest of qualifying National League pitchers.