Albert Pujols, Angels win finale in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS — While the first two games of Albert Pujols’ return to Busch Stadium were special for Cardinals fans and Pujols, they resulted in two losses for the Angels. So it was a bit more rewarding for the Angels in the series finale, as they were able to come

ST. LOUIS — While the first two games of Albert Pujols‘ return to Busch Stadium were special for Cardinals fans and Pujols, they resulted in two losses for the Angels. So it was a bit more rewarding for the Angels in the series finale, as they were able to come away with a 6-4 win Sunday night, with lefty Tyler Skaggs throwing five strong innings, Tommy La Stella adding two RBI singles and Pujols going 2-for-5 with two singles.

The weekend was all about Pujols, as he made his return to St. Louis as a visiting player for the first time in his career and received standing ovations before each of his 12 plate appearances. He went 4-for-11 with a walk in the series, including a memorable homer in Saturday’s 4-2 loss. In his final at-bat Sunday, he came up with the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth and popped up to first. But as he retreated to the dugout, he was greeted with yet another standing ovation and came out to a curtain call after what’s likely to be his last-ever at-bat in St. Louis.

Pujols’ final at-bat at Busch Stadium a celebration of a legend

“I’m just happy we came out with a win,” Pujols said. “This weekend took me back to 2011 when we were in the playoffs and World Series. I enjoyed every moment. If I had to do it again tomorrow or next week, let’s go. This was fun.”

Box score

After the game, Pujols also exchanged jerseys with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in a touching moment, as Pujols has repeatedly referred to Molina as his “little brother,” and it was Molina who gave the fans time to cheer for Pujols each time he came to the plate.

“At the end of the day we have mutual respect for this game,” Pujols said. “That’s something we felt from our heart that we should do and we went for it. No matter what happens with the game on Sunday we should do it. That’s something that’s going to be in my trophy case and mine will be in his trophy case.”

The offense didn’t do much in the first two games, scoring a combined three runs, but was much better in the finale with 15 hits. David Fletcher followed Pujols’ infield popup with a two-run single to left to give the Angels some breathing room in the ninth. Dustin Garneau added an RBI single and Wilfredo Tovar drew a bases-loaded walk to make it a six-run game.

It ended up being important, as the Cardinals scored four times with two outs in the ninth. With two on, closer Hansel Robles got Paul DeJong to ground out to end a tense finish. It helped the Angels go 6-5 on their road trip through Tampa Bay, Toronto and St. Louis.

“Certainly, we’d rather win all of them,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said of the series. “But this was one of the most tremendous things I’ve seen in baseball in terms of the way [Pujols] was treated. St. Louis fans, and I played in St. Louis a lot, I’ve always known how great the fans are. This was really special. It was one of the most special things I’ve seen in my 25 years.”

La Stella, named an All-Star finalist at second base on Friday, was responsible for the other two runs. He slapped an RBI single off Miles Mikolas in the second after Skaggs drew a two-out walk and a bases-loaded RBI single in the sixth off lefty Tyler Webb after Shohei Ohtani singled as a pinch-hitter. Luis Rengifo, though, tripped while heading for home and was thrown out easily at the plate, putting a dent into their rally.

It helped back Skaggs, who was coming off his best start of the season and kept it rolling with five scoreless frames. Skaggs, who allowed one run over 7 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, scattered four hits and struck out three.

Skaggs was at 70 pitches through five innings, but Ausmus elected to have Ohtani pinch-hit for him with two runners on in the sixth. Ohtani came through with a single, setting up La Stella’s RBI single up the middle.

“I felt pretty good,” Skaggs said. “I mean, I do not miss being in the National League. I do not miss it at all. I understand it, though. We scored a run that inning I got pinch-hit for. But I felt really good.”

Skaggs, who improved to 7-6 with a 4.30 ERA, added that he was just honored to take part in the celebration for Pujols.

“It was phenomenal.” Skaggs said. “This was Albert’s weekend. I was happy we got to at least get one win, so it’s one of those things where I’m happy to be a part of it. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things where it’s really cool.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

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