It was Albert Pujols who delivered the winning run for the Dodgers on Tuesday night to beat the Rockies. His pinch-hit single in the 10th inning was the 2,150th run batted in of his career, and his latest example of thriving in a limited role with Los Angeles.
Pujols’ primary role has been hitting left-handers, which he’s done with aplomb, hitting .317/.364/.644, a 163 wRC+ with a team-leading 10 home runs against southpaws. But on Tuesday he was tasked to face veteran right-hander Jhoulys Chacin with one out and Gavin Lux on second base.
“He’s been a lefty killer. He’s on the roster for that reason,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But the bottom line is, with guys in scoring position, he knows how to drive in a run, regardless of handedness. He had a plan.”
Pujols delivered a hard ground ball single up the middle to score Lux with what proved to be the winning run, improving his numbers to .340/.383/.547 with runners in scoring position. It was hit 35th pinch-hit appearance with the Dodgers, just six shy of his career total in the first 20 years plus a month and a half this season with the Angels.
Need a clutch hit? Call Tío Albert. ☎️ pic.twitter.com/53941mbTMU— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) September 22, 2021
The Dodgers on the night didn’t have many scoring opportunities, but they took advantage. They scored Max Muncy from second base with two fly balls in the sixth inning, and including Pujols’ single were 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position on the night.
“I thought the situational at-bats were next level,” Roberts said.
Pujols’ Dodgers tenure has been defined by joy, and that didn’t change on Tuesday. Pujols celebrated his game-winning hit with the head tap gesture that’s been around the team since spring training. Roberts said the players may have greeted Pujols with a beer shower in the locker room after the win.
“At the end of the day, you have to have fun, and you have to enjoy it,” Pujols said. “It was a big hit to take the lead in the 10th inning. You have to show your emotion and what you feel about it.
“Being on this ball club has been so much fun the last three and a half months since arriving here. I’m enjoying being around young players who really want to learn, and for myself picking their brain also.”
Pain in the neck
Chris Taylor was unavailable on Tuesday night, which explains why he didn’t start in the outfield after Cody Bellinger was placed on the injured list. Taylor missed five games last week with soreness in his neck. He pinch-hit on Friday, then started both Saturday and Sunday in Cincinnati, but did not play the opener against the Rockies.
Roberts said Taylor will be reevaluated on Wednesday.
Walker Buehler’s season is such that after six innings and three runs his last time out, he’s coming off one of his worst starts of the season. He starts in the middle game of the series on Wednesday night (5:40 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA), with Rockies ace German Márquez starting for the home team.