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Pujols hits 500th HR, lifts Angels over Nats

Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) - Raul Ibanez's go-ahead three-run double highlighted a four-run eighth inning, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim defeated the Washington Nationals, 4-2, on Monday in the opener of a three- game set.

The Angels' offense finally broke through in the eighth on a crucial error from Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. Albert Pujols led off the frame with a soft dribbler up the middle that Desmond had trouble handling.

"I'm not making the plays," Desmond said of his defense this season. "I'm a big-league shortstop, it's not that tough."

Desmond committed two errors in the loss and pushed his season total to nine through 20 games.

Tyler Clippard (1-2) struck out Ian Stewart in the next at-bat, but Pujols stole his first base of the season to move into scoring position. Howie Kendrick's infield single put runners at the corners and Brennan Boesch popped out to Desmond for the second out of the inning.

Erick Aybar followed with a single to right that tied the game at 1-1. Chris Iannetta walked to load the bases before Ibanez stepped to the plate to pinch- hit for the pitcher's spot.

Ibanez swung through Clippard's first offering, then blasted the next pitch into the gap in left-center that cleared the bases and gave the Angels a three-run cushion.

"Everybody likes being up in that spot," Ibanez said. "That's what you play for, that's what you compete for -- to try to be up in that spot -- since you were a kid in the backyard playing."

Washington manager Matt Williams was asked after the game why he chose to use Clippard rather than a left-handed specialist to face Ibanez.

"(Clippard) has been the eighth-inning guy here for a long time," Williams said. "He's our eighth-inning guy, but tonight wasn't his night."

Fernando Salas (1-0) earned the win in relief of Garrett Richards, who surrendered just one hit over six innings of work, but walked four, hit a batter and was charged with one run. Although Ernesto Frieri gave up a run, he struck out the side in the ninth and nailed down his second save of the season.

Nationals starter Tanner Roark pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed seven hits with five strikeouts and two walks. Ian Desmond hit his fourth homer of the season in the ninth off Frieri and Adam LaRoche added an RBI in the setback.

In an anticipated matchup between two of baseballs youngest stars, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout left much to be desired.

Harper finished 0-for-3 with a walk, while Trout finished 2-for-5. Trout is coming off a three-game series against Detroit over the weekend in which he went 2-for-10 with six strikeouts.

Richards cruised through three innings, but ran into some control problems in the fourth. He walked Denard Span and Harper to lead off the inning, then plunked Jayson Werth to load the bases with no outs. Adam LaRoche followed with an RBI groundout to open the scoring.

Anthony Rendon chopped one to Pujols at first and Pujols fired home to nail Harper at the plate and keep it a one-run game. Richards induced an inning- ending groundout from Desmond to escape trouble.

Los Angeles pounded out 12 hits to just three for Washington, as the Angels snapped a two-game skid.

Game Notes

Richards entered the game with a 1-0 record and 1.83 ERA in three career interleague starts ... Washington had won 2-of-3 before the loss ... Shuck was credited with an outfield assist when he pegged Jose Lobaton trying to stretch a single into a double in the third.

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