Albert Pujols has been troubled by plantar fasciitis -- the same malady that slowed the Bulls' Joakim Noah -- and has been booed by Angels fans, frustrated by Pujols' slow start and the team's poor record thus far in 2013.
The cure was found, unfortunately for Cubs fans; it appears that just the sight of a pitcher wearing a cap with a blue "C" and "CHICAGO" on his gray road uniform was the thing to wake Pujols up. His two-run homer in the eighth inning -- and that ball was crushed; it would have wound up far onto Waveland Avenue had it been hit at Wrigley Field -- gave the Angels a 4-3 win over the Cubs, the 19th time the Cubs have lost a game this year in which they had a lead at one time. It also dropped the Cubs' record in one-run games to 7-13.
Up until Pujols' blast, the Cubs had been doing quite well in their first trip to Anaheim since 2004. They scored three early runs off Jered Weaver, who was making just his second start since returning from the DL, and Scott Feldman was cruising. Feldman ran out of gas in the seventh inning and had to be relieved by James Russell, who got out of that inning just fine. But the Cubs' offense sputtered after the third inning, when they took a 3-1 lead on RBI singles by Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Sweeney. They had just four hits after the third; they did manage to get the tying run to second base in the ninth, but Ernesto Frieri struck out Luis Valbuena to end it. Incidentally, Sweeney had three hits and is now hitting .351/.429/.541 in a small-sample-size 37 at-bats. He's certainly earned more playing time.
I'm not sure how much more I can, or should, write about this loss, so similar to so many this season. The Cubs did manage to go 3-for-9 with RISP in this game; that's better than many other similar losses earlier in the year. The problem was that they didn't have enough runners in scoring position to make a difference, and didn't put the game away against Weaver early. Carlos Villanueva didn't pitch poorly; he just made one mistake pitch to Pujols -- the first pitch he threw, a fastball -- and the result was far too predictable for any Cubs fan.
The homer was Pujols' 54th against the Cubs, by far the most of any active player. The top five all-time in home runs against the Cubs are Willie Mays (97), Hank Aaron (87), Mike Schmidt (78), Mel Ott (77) and Stan Musial (67). Pujols, now with a team that won't play the Cubs more than a few games every three years or so, won't have the chance to move much higher on that list, thankfully, although the Angels will play four more games against the Cubs this year (Wednesday night, and three next month at Wrigley, where Pujols has hit 26 homers, second most among active players -- Adam Dunn leads with 27).
Enough, I think, for this one. It wasn't a good night for Chicago teams in southern California, with the Blackhawks losing Game 3 of their conference final to the Kings. Perhaps tonight will be an improvement; remember, this one starts at an unusual time for a game in California, 6 p.m. CT.