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Pujols' blast helps Angels end skid

The SportsXchange

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Albert Pujols could be the poster boy for what has gone wrong for the Los Angeles Angels this season.

Big expectations have turned into big disappointments a third of the way through the season. But Pujols, for one night anyway, put the Angels on his shoulders and carried them to a victory.

Pujols' two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the Angels to a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.

Pujols' home run likely buoyed the Angels' spirits as well, as Los Angeles appeared destined for yet another loss to a sub-.500 team on the heels of being swept in by the Houston Astros the previous four-game series. However, instead of a five-game losing streak and more head-scratching, the Angels earned their first win in June.

"Numbers-wise, this is not where I want to be, but I almost feel like I'm one swing away from turning things around," said Pujols, who is batting .244 with nine homers. "And I can see that with not just me, but other guys on our team, like Josh (Hamilton). I don't give up, man. I go out there every day and try to fight and get a good pitch to hit."

He certainly got one Tuesday.

The game-winning blow came off Carlos Villanueva (1-4), who missed with his location, throwing an 89 mph fastball down the middle.

"We were not supposed to be even close to calling or throwing that pitch against him," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Somewhere along the line, you lose the scouting report between the bullpen and the mound."

Villanueva's mistake cost Cubs starter Scott Feldman a win. Feldman pitched a solid game, giving up two runs and six hits in six innings. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine of his 11 starts this season.

The loss was the Cubs' 19th in which they led at some point in the game, the most in the National League.

"Yeah, we seem to beat a lot of people for seven innings," Sveum said. "It's the same script. They're all hard. It's like a broken record this year. ... Our starters have been great all year."

Angels starter Jered Weaver, making his second start since returning from a broken bone in his left (non-throwing) elbow, gave up three runs (one earned) and six hits in six innings.

"I felt pretty good," Weaver said. "Obviously first-pitch strikes weren't on today, but I was able to make some pitches when I needed to, and obviously a big home run by Pujols."

Weaver threw 95 pitches, struck out five, walked one and was the victim of his defense.

Normally reliable third baseman Alberto Callaspo's error on a slow roller by David DeJesus to start the third inning resulted in two unearned runs for the Cubs and a 3-1 lead. Callaspo has made four errors in the past three games after making only one error all season before then.

The Angels, however, rallied. Howie Kendrick, who had three hits, drove in Hamilton (double) in the seventh to make it 3-2, knocking Feldman out of the game. In the eighth, Erick Aybar singled and went to second on Mike Trout's fly out to deep center, setting up Pujols' heroics.

Angels reliever Robert Coello (2-1) pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Ernesto Frieri pitched the ninth for his 13th save.

Weaver hit Luis Valbuena with a pitch with one out in the first inning and it wound up costing him. Anthony Rizzo's single moved Valbuena to second, and with two outs, Nate Schierholtz singled home Valbuena for a 1-0 Cubs lead.

The Angels tied the score at 1 in the bottom of the first but missed a chance for more against Feldman. Aybar led off with a double and went to third when Trout beat out a routine grounder to short for an infield single. Trout then stole second. Pujols drove home Aybar with a sacrifice fly to tie the score, but Trout never moved past second base the rest of the inning.

NOTES: Angels CF Peter Bourjos, recovering from a strained left hamstring, started his second game for Class A Inland Empire in his rehab assignment. He's gone a combined 2-for-7. Bourjos likely will get another start in center field for Inland Empire on Wednesday before playing a few games at Triple-A Salt Lake. He could return to the major league roster by Monday. ... Hamilton was back in the starting lineup after sitting out Monday's game, and he went 1-for-4. Hamilton has a .324 average in 10 career games against the Cubs. ... Rizzo is hitting .303 (10-for-33) in his past nine games, which follows a six-game skid in which he went 0-for-23. ... Cubs SS Starlin Castro was dropped to the No. 7 spot in the batting order by manager Dale Sveum for Tuesday's game. Castro hit .100 (2-for-20) on the just-concluded five-game homestand against the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. He went 0-for-4 Tuesday, and he's hitting .253 overall.
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