Pujols gets 500th, Nats fall to Angels

Pujols gets 500th, Nats fall to Angels
April 22, 2014, 9:45 pm
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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Bryce Harper and Mike Trout drew all the attention when this series began. Tonight, though, a far more-established star reminded everyone just how special he is.

Albert Pujols became just the 26th player in baseball history to join the 500 Home Run Club, launching a pair of blasts off right-hander Taylor Jordan to etch his place in the record book and lead his Angels to a blowout win. The veteran slugger drilled a 3-run homer to left during a 4-run top of the first, then sent a 2-run blast flying deep to left-center in the top of the fifth to the amazement of the Nationals Park crowd.

Jordan struggled through yet another ragged start, putting his team in another early hole. The Nationals had a chance to get back into the game in the bottom of the third against a faltering Tyler Skaggs but could only manage two runs. They were shut down the rest of the night by Skaggs and the Los Angeles bullpen, slogging their way through a ballgame that was dominated early by one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: We have to break from tradition here and highlight an opposing player. How often do you get to see someone hit his 500th career homer in person? Pujols actually entered the game on only 498, but he hammered a first-inning sinker from Jordan down the left-field line for his first homer of the night. Four innings later, he crushed another sinker from Jordan deep to left-center, to the right of the Angels' bullpen and onto a walkway next to the picnic tables in the Red Porch area. As Pujols rounded the bases to a standing ovation, his teammates gathered at the plate to greet him. The crowd of 21,915 then elicited a curtain call from the big slugger, fully recognizing the significance of the moment, even if it came at the expense of their hometown team.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: It's become quite a disturbing trend for Jordan. Three straight times he has taken the mound, he has been battered around in the first inning. The Braves got him for four runs on April 12, the Cardinals got him for three runs on Thursday and the Angels pounded him for four more tonight. It's not uncommon for sinkerballers to need awhile to get a feel for their trademark pitch, but Jordan's early struggles have become a significant problem. It's probably no coincidence that Doug Fister is now pitching in rehab games on the same day Jordan starts. But Fister likely needs to make two more starts, building up to five innings, before he comes off the DL (likely around May 7). So the Nationals either have to stick with Jordan in their rotation for the time being or find another alternative.

KEY STAT: The Nationals have give up at least three runs in the first inning five times this season. They've given up at least two runs in the first inning nine times.

UP NEXT: The series concludes Wednesday evening, with the Nationals needing a win to avoid getting swept. Gio Gonzalez takes the mound against Angels veteran Jered Weaver at 7:05 p.m.