ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Albert Pujols' first game against the Cardinals was much easier on him emotionally in his new home at Angel Stadium than it would have been in St. Louis.
The three-time NL MVP, who spent his first 11 seasons with the Cardinals before signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with Los Angeles in December 2011, was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a walk as the designated hitter. But the Angels got plenty of offense against Lance Lynn and won 5-1 on Tuesday night in the Cardinals' first game at the "Big A."
"It was cool to see Albert. He's friends with a lot of us, and I'm sure he was excited to see us, just like we were to see him," St. Louis third baseman David Freese said. "But I think Albert goes about every game the same way — whether it's day one of the preseason or day one of the postseason. And that's a huge reason why he's so successful."
The first time Pujols came up, he tapped catcher Yadier Molina's shin guard with his bat and Molina tapped Pujols on the back of the helmet with his glove — a subtle but meaningful display of affection and respect between two All-Stars who were teammates for nine seasons and won two World Series rings together. Pujols then struck out, and Molina threw out J.B. Shuck at second for an inning-ending double play.
"It was a little weird. But I was fine, guys. I swear. I'm being honest," Pujols said. "I mean, it would have been a little different if it was in St. Louis.
"I mean, you can't forget the special times you had with those guys during those 11 years there. That's something nobody can take away — the success I had there and how those fans and everybody in the community treated me. Every time I get an opportunity to watch them, I root for them because I still have a lot of good friends there, and I still stay in touch with a lot of those guys. But these are three days that I won't be able to root for them."
St. Louis was the only NL club that had never played in Anaheim, having hosted the three previous interleague series between the teams in 2002, 2007 and 2010. The Cardinals won five of the nine meetings between the teams in St. Louis.
Left fielder Matt Holliday was a late scratch because of tightness in his neck, hampering a Cardinals lineup that had averaged a league-best 7.04 runs of support for Lynn in his other 16 starts this season. Molina was 2 for 4, raising his NL-leading average to .347.
"It was good to see Yaddy and good to see him having the year that he's having," Pujols said. "I would love for him to win the batting title. He's like my little brother, and I'd do anything for him. I don't think I've ever seen anybody prepare himself for a game like he does. That's something that I saw over and over in St. Louis. He never takes anything for granted, no matter how he's doing at the plate."
Molina returned the compliment.
"Albert is a great human being. He's a great leader, a great teammate and a great person," Molina said. "There is no doubt he helped me a lot. He was my teammate, my brother for many years."
Mark Trumbo, who started at first base in place of Pujols, turned in a defensive gem in the eighth, after the Cardinals loaded the bases against Kevin Jepsen. Scott Downs came in and struck out rookie Matt Adams before finishing a spectacular 3-6-1 double play, after Trumbo made a slick play in the hole on a hard-hit grounder by Freese.
"We had a good chance of getting two runs across right there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We had a rally going, and it was a great play. We put together some pretty good at-bats in that inning, but they did what they had to do to get out of it."