|Los Angeles Angels' Albert Pujols points skyward as he crosses home plate after hitting a two-run home run off Chicago Cubs pitcher Paul Maholm in the first inning of a spring training baseball game Saturday, March 31, 2012, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)|
Pujols homers again, Angels and Cubs tie
MESA, Ariz.—Albert Pujols has been even more impressive than his new teammates expected.
"He almost makes the game seem too easy," Pitcher Garrett Richards said after the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs tied 3-3 in 10 innings Saturday. "They say he is a machine, and he is. It is a reflection of his work ethic. He's a competitor. He plays this game to win."
Pujols homered for the second straight day and sixth time this spring on the first pitch he saw from left-hander Paul Maholm in the first inning.
Richards, a right-hander who is making a bid for a job as the Angels' No. 5 starter, had a solid effort, giving up three runs -- two earned -- in six innings.
Right-hander Jerome Williams, the other candidate for the No. 5 spot, gave up a run on three hits and struck out five in a minor league game on Saturday.
"I feel good about how I pitched today, and for the entire spring training," said Richards, who was the Angels' first-round pick (42nd overall) in 2009. He pitched at Double-A Arkansas last season before joining the Angels in mid-August.
"I wanted to push the envelope and make their (management) decision hard. I'd like to think that I've done a good enough job (for the No. 5 spot), but the ball is in their hands."
In the fourth, Pujols made a backhanded stop of a grounder by Ian Stewart, stepped on the first-base bag and began to run off the field.
One problem -- that was only the second out. Richards began to follow Pujols.
Richards said he realized the goof and opened his mouth to tell Pujols, "but the crowd already was letting us know."
Pujols wrapped up his day with walk to lead off the sixth and is hitting .407 this spring with six homers and 17 RBIs.
It probably was no surprise that he swung at the first pitch from Maholm. Entering the game, Pujols was 22 of 39 (.564) lifetime against Maholm with a pair of homers and eight RBIs when he was with St. Louis and Maholm was with Pittsburgh.
"He's paid pretty well to do that. He's the reason I made sure that an AL (American League) West team wasn't on my list for free agency," Maholm said.
He kept the Angels off the board for the rest of his outing, which covered 4 2-3 innings. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out six and lowered his spring ERA to 1.84.
The Cubs' bullpen was efficient, particularly right-handers Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol.
Wood retired the only batter he faced in the fifth inning, and Marmol, the closer, pitched a hitless eighth.
NOTES: Mark Trumbo drove in the Angels other run with a double in the sixth. ... Bryan LaHair originally was scheduled to start at first base for the Cubs but Blake DeWitt replaced him. No injury, apparently just a day off. ... Loek Van Mil, a 7-foot-1 right-hander from the Netherlands, gave up one hit in a scoreless 10th for the Angels. ... Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos celebrated his 25th birthday with a double and a stolen base. ... The Angels and Cubs will meet again for the second and final time this spring on Sunday in Tempe, Ariz.