The long-awaited return of Albert Pujols to the city where he played his first 11 major league seasons will finally happen Friday, when the Los Angeles Angels visit the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time since 2010.
Pujols, who joined the Angels on a 10-year, $240 million contract as a free agent in December 2011, told reporters Thursday it will be special for him to return to the place he essentially grew up.
“I think it’s just going to be emotional for myself,” Pujols said. “When I got to St. Louis, I was 21, and when I left, I was 32. I got there as a baby and left as a man. You can’t ignore the success I had there, individually and team accomplishments, winning championships. It’s pretty awesome. I’m excited.”
Despite being gone for seven-plus seasons, the 39-year-old ranks second in Cardinals history in homers (445) and RBIs (1,329), behind only Hall of Famer Stan Musial (475 and 1,951, respectively).
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“He was obviously a tremendous player with the Cardinals for 11 years,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “I’m sure it’ll be emotional. He has a lot of good memories from his time there.”
Pujols and Co. will face right-hander Michael Wacha (4-3, 6.00 ERA) who is coming off a rough outing Saturday, in which he allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits in four innings of an 8-7 loss to the New York Mets. It was Wacha’s third outing in his last five allowing at least six runs in fewer than five innings.
Wacha has never faced the Angels, though he had some trouble with Zack Cozart (12-for-25 with three doubles and two triples) during the infielder’s time with the Cincinnati Reds.
Los Angeles will counter with rookie right-hander Griffin Canning (2-3, 3.93), who is also coming off a loss. He allowed four runs on six hits in six innings of a 6-5 defeat to the Rays at Tampa Bay on Sunday. Canning has not been credited with a win since May 18. Both teams were on the wrong end of extra-inning losses Thursday, despite overcoming three-run deficits to force extra frames.
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