3/9/2013 8:47 P.M. ET
Pujols finds his power with first spring homer
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- In front of a packed Tempe Diablo Stadium crowd, most adorned in red and invested despite the soggy conditions, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols broke the ice on his Spring Training, going deep for the first time in 2013, but the Angels fell to the Rockies, 8-6, after a ninth-inning rally on Saturday.
Pujols, still relegated to designated hitter while recovering from offseason knee surgery, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in his debut on Tuesday, then struck out on a checked swing in his first plate appearance against Rockies starter Juan Nicasio four days later.
His second time up, though, Pujols got a 2-0 sinker on the inside corner, swung out in front and skied a solo homer over the left-field fence in the bottom of the third.
Nicasio's outing finished after 3 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and a walk to put his Cactus League ERA at 6.97 through 10 1/3 frames. The pitch to Pujols wasn't necessarily a bad pitch.
"He's an intelligent hitter," Nicasio noted. "I'm working with my changeup, feeling good with it, and I threw a lot of sliders," he said of his outing. "If I can get more of them on home plate, it'll be better."
Jason Vargas, making his second spring start for the Angels, was charged with four runs on eight hits in a three-inning, 39-pitch outing.
Third baseman Nolan Arenado, the Rockies' No. 2-ranked prospect by MLB.com, hit a two-run double in the second and right fielder Kent Matthes brought him home with a sacrifice fly to give the Rockies the early 3-0 lead. The Angels tied it up with three runs in the bottom half, with a two-run triple by Peter Bourjos and an RBI single by Chris Iannetta, on a chopper that sailed over a drawn-in infield.
Troy Tulowitzki then regained the Rockies' lead in the fourth, on a solo homer that was his first of the spring and his second extra-base hit of the afternoon.
"I think there's a big difference between results and really executing like you want to," Vargas said. "There was some good things that came out of today, even though they put some runs on the board. I threw the changeup better."
Mike Trout went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a walk and Josh Hamilton went 0-for-3 with a strikeout for an Angels team that had every regular in the lineup except Dominican shortstop Erick Aybar, who's participating in the World Baseball Classic. Pujols grounded into a 5-2-3 double play with the bases loaded in his third and final plate appearance.
Angels relievers Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen each threw a scoreless frame, and Josh Outman -- competing for a spot in the Rockies' bullpen -- contributed two scoreless innings, walking two batters.
The Rockies broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh on an RBI single by Corey Dickerson, but the Angels took their first lead in the bottom half on a two-run homer by Kole Calhoun, who's fighting for a bench spot.
In the top of the ninth, the Rockies scored three off the Angels' Ryan Brasier with four singles, a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch.
Up next for Angels: Tommy Hanson will make his second start of the spring on Sunday, when the Angels travel to Surprise, Ariz., to take on the Royals at 1:05 p.m. PT. Hanson, who will be opposed by righty Luke Hochevar, gave up a run on three hits in his previous two-inning stint. Trout, Hamilton and Vernon Wells could all play on Sunday. Manager Mike Scioscia is expected to return after spending Saturday in Philadelphia dealing with a death in the family.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.