ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Albert Pujols was only moderately excited when he looked up at the scoreboard and learned he had tied Babe Ruth’s career hits total with his 599th home run.
The slugger always prefers to see less attention focused on his milestones and more on the Angels’ victories — particularly when a first-time starter plays a major role.
Pujols connected during Los Angeles’ nine-run third inning in a 9-3 victory over struggling Bartolo Colon and the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
Pujols moved to the brink of his latest landmark with a three-run homer off Colon (2-6) early in the Angels’ biggest inning of the season. After his first-inning single, Pujols’ homer was his 2,873rd career hit, matching Ruth’s total in 30 fewer games.
“I don’t play here for numbers,” Pujols said. “My goal since Day One when I got to the big leagues was to help the organization that I wear the uniform of. … I’m aware of the history, don’t get me wrong. I respect it, but I think that’s kind of a distraction that I don’t want to bring into the game for me.”
The 37-year-old slugger has homered in back-to-back games for the first time this season. He can become the ninth player in baseball history, and fourth-youngest, to reach 600 homers with his next shot.
Pujols would rather talk about Parker Bridwell (1-0), who earned his first major league win by pitching six-hit ball into the seventh inning of a spot start in the Angels’ injury-plagued rotation.
“He didn’t look like a guy that was making his first start out there in his career,” Pujols said. “He was really comfortable as soon as he took that ball in the first inning and went right after the batters.”
Matt Kemp and Tyler Flowers homered for the Braves.
Bart’s bad day
The 44-year-old Colon committed one of the Braves’ three errors in the third, leading to seven unearned runs. Although he gave up seven hits and got just seven outs in his latest unimpressive outing, Atlanta seemed to take the loss as a result of group ineptitude.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever witnessed anything like that, and I’ve been at all the levels,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know. It was a little bit of everything. I don’t know, because I didn’t count, how many extra outs we gave them.”
In their second game after losing Mike Trout to an injured thumb ligament, the Angels still managed plenty of offense.
All nine batters scored one run apiece in the third-inning rally, which would have ended before it began if Jace Peterson had completed a double play on Kole Calhoun’s one-out grounder. Instead, Pujols’ subsequent homer cleared the bases.
The Angels reached base in 12 consecutive plate appearances during the rally, which included an error by shortstop Dansby Swanson along with a handful of head-scratching defensive plays that weren’t errors.
“It bothers you, because this is the major leagues,” Snitker said. “That shouldn’t happen. It’s one thing these guys should be able to do is make plays, and we didn’t. And it was a lot of people not making plays.”
Parker can’t lose
Bridwell persisted through a bumpy beginning to win in his first appearance for the Angels, who acquired the right-hander from Baltimore last month. After converting Bridwell into a starter, the Angels called him up to become the ninth starter and 22nd pitcher to appear for the club in just 55 games.
Bridwell had about 20 friends and family members in the stands, but didn’t show the pressure. Waiting out the Angels’ extensive rally didn’t bother him, either.
“I just sat in my spot and didn’t talk,” Bridwell said. “And when (Atlanta) made the pitching change, I just went down to the (batting) cage and played catch, a couple of throws, and watched the offense put up runs.”
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips didn’t play to get extra rest for his bruised right knee. He isn’t expected to need a stint on the disabled list.
Angels: OF Cameron Maybin sat out after feeling tightness in his side after making a running catch Monday. … 3B Yunel Escobar will play a rehab game with Class A Inland Empire on Wednesday, and could return to the Angels on Thursday. He has missed two weeks with a strained hamstring.
Braves: Jaime Garcia (2-3, 3.58 ERA) has just one win in his last eight starts despite a string of decent performances. He is making his eighth start on the road, with just two in Atlanta.
Angels: Jesse Chavez (4-6, 5.09 ERA) has been solid at home during his up-and-down season. He has never allowed a run to the Braves in four career appearances.
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