ANAHEIM, Calif. • As they’ve come unmoored during interleague play the Cardinals have discussed how they need to pull their overall game together and get their starting pitching back in synch with their offense.
The two pulled in different directions during June.
They started July going the same way.
It wasn’t the heading the Cardinals had in mind.
A late-night game that presented the Cardinals with several firsts was decided by what the Cardinals have seen plenty of recently. In the Cardinals’ first ever regular-season visit to Angels Stadium of Anaheim and first ever game against former star Albert Pujols, the LA Angels quieted the Cardinals offense and capitalized on one inning against Lance Lynn for a 5-1 victory Tuesday night. Jared Weaver (2-4) held the Cardinals to one run on a groundout in his seven innings of work.
The Cardinals slipped to 2-4 on the road trip and must take the next two games in this three-game visit to have a .500 journey. The Cardinals have lost seven of their last nine games, dropping from first-place in the division thanks to an 11-game stretch against American League West teams. The Cardinals are 2-7 against American League teams from outside of Missouri.
The root of the Cardinals’ first prolonged struggles of the season has been the strength of their strong start. Their starting pitching, outside of ace Adam Wainwright, has evaporated in the heat. For the third time in as many consecutive road starts, Lynn had a single inning mushroom on him for at least four runs. In Miami, he allowed a five-run first inning. In Houston, four runs scored on him in the fourth inning. The Angels reached him for five runs in the second inning.
Shortstop Pete Kozma and center fielder Jon Jay, two residents of the lower third, have tumbled into extended funks. Jay brought a 11-for-56 (.196) dip into Tuesday night’s game and complicated it by going 0-for-3. Kozma is hitless in four consecutive games.
Without the pitcher batting the Cardinals have struggled. In their past seven losses to American League, three of which were in an NL park, the bottom of the order has gone seven-for-68 (.103) with 23 strikeouts.
In the top of the eighth inning, three consecutive singles from Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig loaded the bases for the Cardinals with no outs. The Cardinals brought the tying run to the plate in Matt Adams and the Angels went to lefty Scott Downs. Downs struck out Adams and then stayed in to face David Freese, who has hit .238 against lefties this season. Downs tested him with sinking fastballs. Freese was able to poke one toward right that could have scored two runs – hand first baseman Trumbo not dove to snare it.
He turned the double play that ended the inning.
The bases loaded with nobody out produced no runs.
The bottom of the order didn’t even get a chance to contribute in that rally. They went down in order in the ninth to end the game.
Angels take 5-0 lead on Lynn
Not too long after Albert Pujols ended an inning, his new teammates started what could be a rout.
The Angels jumped Lance Lynn and the Cardinals for five runs and a 5-0 lead in the second inning. Lynn's struggles -- like those of the entire starting rotation outside of Adam Wainwright -- continued as the Angels laced him for six hits from 10 batters in a single inning.
An error by Matt Carpenter prolonged the inning, but it didn't explain it as Lynn failed to get the first four batters and six of the first seven batters out.
All of them singles.
Most of them were line drives.
Josh Hamilton opened the inning with a single to left, Howie Kendrick followed with a single down the line, and Mark Trumbo produced the game's first run with a single to center field. A couple more followed before Lynn found a trapdoor in the inning. He struck out Pujols for a second time and Hamilton to end the inning.
The Cardinals inched back into the game with a run in the top of the fourth inning. David Freese's RBI groundout off Jared Weaver brought home Allen Craig.
The Angels lead 5-1 through four innings.
Pujols talks about the Cardinals, about home in St. Louis
Hours before he saw the first pitch thrown against him by a Cardinals pitcher, Angels designated hitter and former Cardinals’ MVP Albert Pujols wasn’t sure the emotions he would feel inside, but he knew the motions he go through at the plate.
He’d start by tapping the umpire with his bat and then do the same to Cardinals catcher and longtime friend Yadier Molina.
“I can tell you one thing: I’m going to hit the umpire and probably hit him on the shins,” Pujols said. “Hopefully he tells me not to do it. Maybe we can start a fight.”
True to his plan, Pujols, batting third in the Angels lineup, came to the plate in the bottom of the first inning and gently tapped home-plate Todd Tichenor on the leg and when Molina returned to his spot behind the plate, Pujols double-tapped his friend’s shin guards. There was none of the blowback Molina gave the Cincinnati Reds a few years ago – the fight to which Pujols’ referenced – and instead was a small hug. Molina patted Pujols on his helmet with his catcher’s mitt.
Molina got the last tap.
Pujols struck out in his first at-bat and Molina rifled a throw to second to turn that K into a double play when he caught J.B. Shuck trying to steal second. Hey, the Cardinals have never played a regular-season game in Anaheim. Maybe word hasn't reached this outpost in the American League about the catcher's arm.
You'd think Pujols would tell his new team.
He had a lot to say before the game ...
On playing the Cardinals: "At the same point it’s weird. It’s something that we have three days that I won’t be able to root for them. Any time have the opportunity to watch them I root for them. They are like my good friends. I still have a lot of good friends there."
On not talking about the Cardinals: "To tell you the truth I don’t really want to open this door. I’m an Angel now. We’re playing really well. I think my main focus in that -- to help my team to win, not to open the door to what happened two years ago. That’s over. There is nothing that I can do to go back. Move forward. I’m excited. Arte Moreno made a big commitment to bring me here to hopefully to have the success here to the city of Angels. That’s my goal over the next nine years."
On calling St. Louis home: "I’ll be there until they kick me out."
On St. Louis fans and the Cardinals: "I believed they raised me to who I am."
On endings: "I was blessed to be in St. Louis for 11 years and now I’m here."
Holliday scratched with neck pain
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, after a brief sabbatical from his usual spot in the order, was set to return to the No. 3 hole in the Cardinals' lineup tonight.
That was before his neck had other plans.
Holliday arrived at the ballpark this afternoon and felt his neck tighten on him. He was receiving treatment while the team took batting practice, and manager Mike Matheny confirmed that the left fielder had been scratched from the lineup. Matheny called the soreness muscular and not something that would acquire more intensive treatment or a deeper look at the pain. He added that Holliday had experienced some tightness in his back.
The absence of the left fielder meant some significant shuffling of the lineup a few hours before first pitch.
Instead of starting at designated hitter, Carlos Beltran was back in the outfield. Instead of starting in right, Allen Craig moved to left in the A's spacious outfield. Instead of being at third, David Freese is the DH, and instead of starting the game on the bench Daniel Descalso is at third.
Here is the lineup that will back Lance Lynn in the Cardinals' first regular-season visit ever to the Big A:
1. Carpenter, 2B
2. Molina, C
3. Beltran, RF
4. Craig, LF
5. Adams, 1B
6. Freese, DH
7. Jay, CF
8. Descalso, 3B
9. Kozma, SS
Pitching: RHP Lance Lynn
As you can see Matt Adams has recovered from his bout with food poisoning. He said a day to rest and breath deep the fresh air during a few walks Monday help clear the funk leftover from some bad salmon.
The Angels lineup features Mike Trout (hamstring) and the player who used to man the No. 3 spot in the Cardinals lineup, three-time MVP Albert Pujols.
Pujols was in good spirits this afternoon after attending the premiere of a short documentary interview about his youth and his faith. He then spoke for more than 12 minutes with the assembled media. He initially dismissed a question about the Cardinals by saying he'd rather talk about the Angels and how well they were playing at this time. He then spent the next 10 minutes or so talking about the Cardinals.
Pujols did spearhead the move to wear the Musial patch before today's game, during BP. All of the Angels had the patch affixed to their batting practice jersey or batting practice pullover.
You can see a picture of Pujols with the patch here.
Here is the Angels' lineup:
1. Shuck, LF
2. Trout, CF
3. Pujols, DH
4. Hamilton, RF
5. Kendrick, 2B
6. Trumbo, 1B
7. Callaspo, 3B
8. Iannetta, C
9. Aybar, SS
Pitcher: Jared Weaver
Check back throughout the evening here for more news and notes and coverage of the game from Anaheim tonight. I have some transcribing to do here and will have the some comments from Pujols up here shortly.
In one he talks about picking a fight with Molina.