LOS ANGELES (AP) — Albert Pujols hit his first home run against the Los Angeles Angels since they released him in May, sending Walker Buehler and the Los Angeles Dodgers to an 8-2 win Sunday.
Cody Bellinger, the former NL MVP who has struggled mightily this season, homered for the second straight game, helping the World Series champions take two of three at Dodger Stadium in the Freeway Series.
Trea Turner, making his second start as the leadoff batter for the Dodgers since being acquired with Max Scherzer in a trade with Washington, scored twice.
Pujols hit a two-run homer in the second inning, connecting as a pinch-hitter for Justin Turner, who exited with left groin discomfort. Turner will be out for a few days, according to Dave Roberts.
Pujols admired the 418-foot drive for a bit, then had a jubilant celebration with teammates in the dugout. It was the third pinch-hit home run of Pujols’ career, the 14th home run of the season — nine in a Dodgers uniform — and 676th in his storied career.
“It’s not the first home run I’ve hit against the Angels,” Pujols said. “To me, I’m just glad to be able to contribute to the ballclub and help win the series. I didn’t put too much thought into it. It can be looked at a different way since it’s a former team, but I don’t look at it like that.”
The 41-year-old Pujols connected off rookie Reid Detmers and gave the Dodgers a 5-0 lead.
Pujols chatted with his former teammates before the series started, then he said it was all about winning games.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen some of these guys since I got released,” Pujols said. “I still have a great relationship with 95 percent of those guys.”
Buehler (12-2) pitched six strong innings, allowing one run on four hits and striking out eight. He worked around four walks.
The Dodgers scored twice before Detmers (0-2), who made his second career start, had recorded an out. The Dodgers had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and executed a double steal.
“Last week I was obviously a little nervous but this week I felt more calm,” Detmers said. “I felt good. I executed most of my pitches. I got unlucky a couple times. I need to execute a little better and things will work out in my favor.”
Angels reliever Patrick Naughton made his big league debut in the sixth inning. He allowed one run on two hits and withstood a delay while a fan ran onto the field and sprinted around for a while before being apprehended.
But the day belonged to Pujols.
“It was great for him and to be ready when called upon since he wasn’t in (the starting lineup) today,” Roberts said. “Player comes in the game. He’s five hitters away, takes an at-bat and hits a homer. I tip my cap. As far as hitting against a former team, he’s happy to help the Dodgers win a ballgame.”
OHTANI MVP TALK
Asked about Shohei Ohtani’s MVP case if the team doesn’t make the playoffs, Angels manager Joe Maddon didn’t think that mattered.
“A-Rod won MVP when he was playing for the Rangers and they were in last place,” Maddon said. “He absolutely deserved it. He was the best player. It comes down to semantics. At the end of the day, whoever is voting, I think, decides based on vibes and whatever you believe and whatever your truth is. Maybe I’m biased but my perspective is this guy is doing something no one has ever done. He has incredible offensive numbers, incredible pitching numbers. How could you walk away from that?”
Ohtani is batting .269 with a major league-leading 37 home runs, 82 RBIs and has a 1.014 OPS. On the mound, he’s 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA. He walked as a pinch-hitter on Sunday.
Mike Trout has won three AL MVP awards, only one (2014) when the Angels made the playoffs.
Angels: INF Jared Walsh (right intercostal strain) could be activated as early as Tuesday in Toronto.
Dodgers: LHP Garrett Cleavinger (right oblique strain) was placed on the 10-day IL Sunday … INF Gavin Lux (left hamstring strain) started a rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday.
Angels: RHP Chris Rodriguez (2-1, 3.86) is expected to be activated and make the second start of his career on Tuesday in Toronto. The 23-year-old right hander took the loss in his first start against the Rangers on Aug. 2. He allowed four runs – three earned – and struck out seven in six innings.
Dodgers: RHP Max Scherzer (9-4, 2.75) will start Tuesday in Philadelphia, his second start with the Dodgers since being traded from Washington. He dazzled in his debut with the Dodgers as he went seven innings, struck out 10, walked one, and allowed two earned runs in a win over the Houston Astros. He got his first career curtain call to boot.
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