ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Edward Mujica's season-opening save streak ended in dramatic fashion with one powerful swing by Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton greeted the St. Louis Cardinals' right-hander with a tying two-run homer in the ninth inning and Erick Aybar delivered an RBI single against Mujica five batters later, sending the Cards to a stunning 6-5 loss Thursday night in the rubber game of their first series at Angel Stadium.
Adam Wainwright, the NL pitcher of the month for June, took a 5-3 lead into the ninth before giving up a leadoff single by Albert Pujols. The three-time NL MVP was 1 for 11 in his first series against the team he spent his first 11 big league seasons with before signing a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels in December 2011.
"I tried to get it down and away right there," Wainwright said. "Albert was creeping in on the plate a little bit, and I made a good pitch. It was exactly what I was trying to do and I broke his bat. He's a great hitter for a reason. It's hard to keep a man like that hitless for a series. He's going to get one eventually."
Manager Mike Matheny then brought in Mujica, and Hamilton drove his second pitch into the center field trees for his 11th home run. Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo followed with singles, and Mujica (0-1) retired the next two batters before Aybar poked an opposite-field single to left on a 2-1 pitch.
Mujica acknowledged that he shook off batterymate Yadier Molina on the ill-fated pitches to Hamilton and Aybar.
"I made two big mistakes. I didn't follow Yadier on a couple of pitches, and that was the ball game," Mujica said. "He called for a fastball on Hamilton and I threw the changeup. On Aybar, he called for a fastball again and I decided to throw my changeup. I threw a couple good changeups and got two popups so I figured I'd go with my best pitch."
The homer extended Hamilton's hitting streak to nine games, and raised his average to .226
"It was just a good feeling to hear that sound come off your bat," he said. "Most of the time, you know. So I figured it had a good chance when I hit it. It couldn't happen on a better day for the crowd on the Fourth of July. They got a little more fireworks and a little more bang for their buck than they thought they were going to get."
Wainwright, the only Cardinals pitcher averaging at least seven innings per start, defended Matheny's decision to take him out after 104 pitches. His season high is 120, on May 11 in a two-hit shutout against Colorado.
"We've always liked that situation. He's the right guy in that situation," Wainwright said of Mujica. "He's been great all year. That's what happens when you let a leadoff guy on in the last inning. That's on me, right there. I have to go out and get that guy out."