ANAHEIM, Calif. — While most of the attention was focused on Albert Pujols and his pursuit of home run No. 600, it was a long ball from an unexpected source that gave the Angels a victory Wednesday night.
Eric Young Jr. hit his first major league homer since 2014 and made it a timely one, connecting for a tiebreaking solo shot in the eighth inning that lifted the Los Angeles Angels to a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
The 32-year-old Young has spent most of the past three seasons trying to return to the majors.
“You enjoy the moment and whatever happens, happens,” Young said. “I’m really sticking by that, and trying not to think about everything too much, just go with the flow.”
Pujols, meanwhile, remained at 599 career home runs. He had a single in four at-bats.
The Braves opened the scoring in the second when Matt Kemp homered. For Kemp, it was No. 10 on the season and No. 250 for his career. It was also his 40th hit in May.
“Matt’s a really good hitter,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “His bat stays in the zone so long, he hits everybody.”
It remained a 1-0 game into the bottom of the seventh, when the Angels tied it with an odd offensive inning. After two infield singles, the Angels had runners on first and second when Shane Robinson hit a chopper to third baseman Rio Ruiz.
Ruiz stepped on the bag for the force just ahead of a hard slide by Martin Maldonado, who clipped the feet of Ruiz. That delayed his throw to first enough that he had to hurry it, throwing the ball past first baseman Jace Peterson for an error that allowed Danny Espinosa to score from first.
“He did a good job of getting out of the way,” Snitker said. “He just didn’t make the throw.”
Jaime Garcia went seven innings for the Braves, allowing one unearned run, five hits and three walks. He has allowed only one earned run in 21 2/3 innings during his last three starts.
“He did a great job for the third game in a row,” Snitker said. “If he loses a hitter, he gets a double-play ball.”
Jesse Chavez pitched seven innings for the Angels, giving up one run, five hits and a walk while striking out four.
Young, called up Monday to replace injured star Mike Trout, homered off reliever Arodys Vizcaino (1-1), who had made 12 consecutive scoreless appearances.
“Any time a player perseveres like E.Y. does and they get an opportunity, it’s great to see him achieve,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And he gave us a big lift tonight.”
Blake Parker (1-2) picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief. Bud Norris got two outs for his 10th save.
Braves: 1B Matt Adams was out of the lineup a sore left knee. Snitker said it happened sometime during Tuesday’s game and Adams woke Wednesday with knee soreness. He is only expected to miss one game. … 2B Brandon Phillips returned to the lineup after missing two games with a bruised right knee.
Angels: Trout had surgery on his left thumb and is still expected to miss six to eight weeks. … OF Cameron Maybin was out of the lineup for a second consecutive night with tightness in his side.
Atlanta’s manager was tossed in the fifth for arguing a balk call against Garcia by first base umpire Ted Barrett. Said Snitker: “He picked off a guy and had three other moves (to first) that weren’t balks. And then all of a sudden it’s a balk. He didn’t do anything different, so why are you balking him now?”
Braves: After a day off, RHP Mike Foltynewicz is scheduled to start Friday in Cincinnati. Foltynewicz has had an uneven season for the Braves, going 3-2 in his last five starts despite a 6.12 ERA.
Angels: RHP Alex Meyer is expected to be activated from the 10-day DL to start the opener of a four-game series against the Twins. Meyer is 2-2 with a 5.79 ERA in five starts. He has been on the DL since May 21 with back spasms.