ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Carlos Villanueva knows first-hand about the Los Angeles Angels' Albert Pujols as much as any pitcher on the Cubs' roster. After all those years with Milwaukee facing Pujols' St. Louis Cardinals, nobody had faced Pujols in more plate appearances than Villanueva.
"He's hit me well," Villanueva said quietly after The Machine got him again. "But he wasn't htting 1.000 off me. I've gotten him out before. You make a good pitch and he might be out. You make a mistake, and hitters like him do what they're supposed to do."
In this case, it was a first-pitch, 89-mph fastball down the middle of the plate in the eighth inning that Pujols crushed to left field for a two-run shot that gave the Los Angeles Angels a 4-3 victory over the Cubs.
It was Pujols' 54th homer against the Cubs - most for him against any opponent.
It was his third off Villanueva - making him 10-for-29 (.345) against Villanueva, with a .759 slugging percentage and 1.165 OPS.
It was also yet another case of manager Dale Sveum left chapped after the game by a pitcher and/or catcher freelancing away from the game plan and burning the team.
The Cubs now lead the National League with 19 losses in games they led at some point.
"We were not supposed to be even close to calling or throwing that pitch against him," Sveum said. "Somewhere along the line, you lose the scouting report between the bullpen and the mound."
Pujols, who entered the game hitting just .243 with eight homers, got a cookie from Villanueva that split the plate just below belt high.
Villanueva said he was throwing the right pitch - he just didn't execute it. He wanted it in on Pujols - "maybe move his feet, or get a foul ball," he said.
It negated a quality start from Scott Feldman, who survived Angels ace Jered Weaver to leave a 3-1 game in the hands of the bullpen with two men on and none out in the seventh.
James Russell navigated the bottom of the order to limit the damage to one run and give Villanueva the ball with a 3-2 lead.
The Cubs have 12 blown saves, compared to just 10 saves.
"We seem to beat a lot of people for seven innings,'' said Sveum, whose club lost for the third straight time following a season-high five-game winning streak.