Expected to add some punch off the bench and be a vocal leader for a club trying to repeat as World Series champion, Albert Pujols has been so much more for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Pujols had a home run among his two hits Friday and is expected to be in the starting lineup Saturday night in the middle game of a three-game series against the visiting Texas Rangers. The Dodgers had five home runs in total during a 12-1 victory over Rangers on Friday.
More playing time could be on the way for Pujols after Max Muncy left Friday’s series opener with right side tightness. Muncy had one of three Dodgers home runs in the first inning before he departed.
Pujols replaced Muncy at first base, and center fielder Cody Bellinger also departed in the fifth inning with a tight left hamstring.
Avoiding Muncy and his 14 home runs on the season would seem like a break for a Rangers team starved for a road victory, but Pujols has been anything but an easy out since he officially signed with the Dodgers on May 17 after the Los Angeles Angels released him.
Pujols now has at least 10 home runs for the 20th time in his career, and he has five home runs with the Dodgers in 19 games after hitting five in 24 games with the Angels. He also has four home runs over his past nine games.
“He’s been so productive, on the field and in the clubhouse,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “… I think a guy that is a first-ballot Hall of Famer that’s motivated and excited to be here, I think that is a good start and that is what we’ve had from Albert. And the production has been really good for all of us.”
There was a chance Pujols, 41, would have been in Saturday’s starting lineup anyway since the Rangers will send left-hander Kolby Allard (1-2, 3.41) to the mound. In his fourth big league season, Allard has never faced the Dodgers.
Allard is starting for the third time since moving into the rotation and he will be tasked with ending the Rangers’ 16-game road losing streak. It is tied for longest such streak in franchise history, matching the Washington Senators in their debut season of 1961.
It is also the second-longest road losing streak in baseball over the past 10 seasons behind the Arizona Diamondbacks’ current 19-game skid.
Going back to early May, the Rangers have been swept in road series against the Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants.
“It’s not rocket science what we need to do right now,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “The more we keep talking about what we can’t do, we’re losing focus on what we should be doing. I don’t really care about the losing streak, I just want to make sure we play a clean game, play good defense, run the bases hard, have quality at-bats and make quality pitches.”
Texas will have to face Dodgers right-hander Trevor Bauer (6-4, 2.40) on Saturday. He enters after absorbing the loss in two of his past three starts, including his most recent outing Sunday at Atlanta, giving up three earned runs on six hits over six innings.
In six career starts against the Rangers, Bauer is 1-0 with a 4.06 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings.
–Field Level Media