Although Albert Pujols has played at Dodger Stadium regularly for two decades in postseason games, interleague rivalry showdowns and everything in between, the slugger felt like a stranger in a foreign land when he emerged from the home dugout Monday night wearing the Dodgers’ famous home whites.
“I’m (used to) getting a lot of boos here,” Pujols said with a laugh. “It was pretty awesome for the fans to share my side this time.”
Everybody at Chavez Ravine will need a bit longer to get used to the sight of Pujols playing for the Dodgers, but the three-time NL MVP announced his arrival with a key hit in another victory for the surging champs.
Pujols delivered an RBI single in his Dodgers debut, and Walker Buehler pitched seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball in Los Angeles’ 3-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Pujols went 1 for 4 while playing first base and batting cleanup for the defending World Series champions, who added the 10-time All-Star on Monday after the Los Angeles Angels cut him earlier this month.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who played against Pujols in the 2004 World Series, called the sight of the generation’s greatest slugger in Dodger Blue “surreal. I don’t use that word often … but it fit, and it felt normal.”
After getting loud cheers and flying out to left in the first, the 41-year-old Pujols drove Madison Bumgarner’s 0-2 pitch up the middle to score Mookie Betts in the third.
“It felt great, especially your first night wearing this uniform,” Pujols said. “In a key situation like that, with a guy in Bumgarner that has a pretty good slider and is pitching pretty well, I was able to get a good barrel and put it through the infield. So yeah, it felt awesome.”
Pujols got his 3,254th hit and his 2,113th RBI — the second-most in major league history since it became an official stat. The fifth-leading home run hitter in baseball history was batting .198 in his 10th season with the Angels when they cut him.
Pujols also gave a midgame pep talk to Buehler (2-0), who dominated the Diamondbacks except for one wild stretch in the fourth to earn his first victory in six starts since April 9.
Allowing only an infield single by Josh Rojas in the first inning, Buehler struck out seven despite walking four — more walks than he had issued in his first seven starts combined.
“Him being in Anaheim for so long, I don’t know if any of us could have imagined he’d be wearing our uniform,” Buehler said. “But a big hit for us tonight, and obviously we’re excited to have him in there.”
Will Smith homered and doubled for the Dodgers, who have won five of six on their nine-game homestand. Gavin Lux added an RBI single in the eighth.
Eduardo Escobar had an RBI single in the eighth for Arizona, which opened a four-game series at Chavez Ravine with its fifth loss in six games.
Bumgarner left after four innings with a spasm in his left adductor muscle, although he’s fairly confident the latest setback in the Diamondbacks’ dismaying series of injury problems isn’t serious.
“This is about the seventh or eighth day that we’ve had news like that,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “But I can assure these guys that it’s not going to continue. It’s time for young players to step up, and whoever that lands on will come out and do a great job.”
Bumgarner (4-3) matched his shortest start of the season with four innings of two-hit ball requiring 80 pitches. He walked four and allowed two earned runs in his first loss since April 12 after yielding just three earned runs in his past five starts combined. Smith homered in the second inning.
Bumgarner said he felt the injury “warming up before the game. I made it quite a while, and I don’t think it got worse, but it was definitely there and noticeable. I understand the sense of precaution with the boat we’re in right now. … I think it will go away pretty fast, but we’ll see.”
KENLEY DOES IT ALL
Arizona rallied in the eighth against reliever Victor González, but Kenley Jansen came on for a four-out save, inducing a double-play grounder from Andrew Young to end it.
Jansen also batted for himself in the eighth, striking out with two runners on to end the inning. The plate appearance was the 10th of Jansen’s 12-year major league career.
Jansen’s eighth save of the season was his 320th for the Dodgers, matching Dennis Eckersley’s total for Oakland as the third-most saves with one team in major league history. Only Mariano Rivera (652 with the Yankees) and Trevor Hoffman (552 for the Padres) recorded more.
Diamondbacks: Lovullo had no update on Luke Weaver, who left Sunday’s start with right shoulder discomfort.
Dodgers: LHP David Price came off the injured list. He missed 17 games with a hamstring strain. … Chris Taylor missed his second straight start with right wrist stiffness, but played second base in the ninth inning.
Julio Urías (5-1, 3.26 ERA) looks to extend his stellar start to the season after throwing seven innings of two-hit ball against Seattle last Wednesday. The Diamondbacks didn’t announce a starter.