ANAHEIM, Calif. — There was a noteworthy home run Wednesday night at Angel Stadium, but it wasn’t the one the 35,000 or so fans wearing red came to witness.
Albert Pujols went into the game with 599 home runs, the Los Angeles Angels designated hitter looking to become the ninth player in major league history to hit 600.
Instead, the memorable home run belonged to Angels left fielder Eric Young Jr., whose first major league long ball since 2014 broke an eighth-inning tie and lifted Los Angeles to a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Atlanta left fielder Matt Kemp connected for career homer No. 250 in the second inning.
The decisive hit of the game came off the bat of Young, who went deep off Braves reliever Arodys Vizcaino (2-2). Young’s shot allowed the Angels to take two of three in the series.
Young, playing in just his third major league game this season, was called up Monday from Triple-A Salt Lake to replace the injured Mike Trout on the roster, and, so far, he has been up to the task.
He went 2-for-2 with the home run and a walk on Wednesday, and he is 5-for-11 with two stolen bases since his promotion.
Though the homer was a game-winner for the Angels, it had even more significance for Young, who lost his day-old son in January after the child was born three months premature.
Young got emotional during an interview on the field immediately after the game.
“Those are tears of joy,” Young said. “I know I’ve shed plenty of tears this year, so it was a special moment not only for myself but for my family, to be able to smile and have a special moment.”
It’s been a struggle for Young on the field as well over the past few years, bouncing from organization to organization. Young, who first reached the big leagues in 2009, played in just six major league games last year with the New York Yankees.
Before this week, he spent the entire 2017 season with Salt Lake, but he earned his promotion by playing solid defense and hitting .354 in the Pacific Coast League, all while playing with a heavy heart.
“You can’t quit,” Young said. “It’s an easy situation to bury yourself and go hide in a hole, but you try to turn it into a positive and be an inspiration to others, not to give up and quit on yourself or your family. A lot of things are put into perspective this year, regardless on what level I’m playing on. I’m blessed to play this game. Wherever they ask me to play, I’m going to put the uniform on and give everything I’ve got.”
Both Braves starter Jaime Garcia and Angels starter Jesse Chavez pitched well. Each lasted seven innings and gave up just one run. Chavez yielded Kemp’s home run, but the run Garcia allowed was unearned.
The Braves left-hander took a shutout into the seventh when the Angels got a couple of infield hits to begin a rally. Shane Robinson, called up from Salt Lake earlier in the day, came to the plate with runners on first and second and one out.
With the baserunners going on a full-count pitch, Robinson hit a sharp grounder to third. Rio Ruiz stepped on the bag for an out, but Martin Maldonado’s hard slide into Ruiz forced an errant throw to first.
Instead of an inning-ending double play, the ball got past first baseman Jace Peterson, allowing Danny Espinosa to score all the way from first on the play and tie the game at 1-1.
Braves manager Brian Snitker, who watched the play from the clubhouse because he was ejected for arguing a balk call two innings earlier, wouldn’t blame Ruiz’s poor throw on Maldonado’s slide.
“His feet were on the ground; it’s just about making a good throw,” Snitker said. “(Ruiz) did a good job of getting out of the way and clearing his feet. He just didn’t make the throw.”
Snitker said of Garcia, “He was good, really good. He was keeping the ball down, staying in the strike zone; his walks are way down. If something happens and he loses a batter, he gets a double-play ball.”
Angels reliever Blake Parker (1-2) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to get the win. Closer Bud Norris got the final two outs for his 10th save.
NOTES: Angels CF Mike Trout had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Dr. Steve Shin performed the surgery at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. “We’re going to count the days,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Trout’s absence. … Angels RHP Parker Bridwell, who earned the victory Tuesday in his first career major league start, was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake to make room on the roster for OF Shane Robinson. Robinson, who was hitting .289 with 25 RBIs and 27 runs at Salt Lake, started the game in center field. … Braves 2B Brandon Phillips was back in the starting lineup after missing the previous two games with a contusion on his right knee. Phillips went 0-for-4. … Braves 1B Matt Adams was not in the lineup after hurting his right knee Tuesday.