Pujols Finishes April with No Homers for Angels - The Missourian: Sports

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Pujols Finishes April with No Homers for Angels

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Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 8:30 am

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Albert Pujols ripped a long drive down the left-field line, and the Los Angeles Angels rose in the dugout along with the crowd. The ball sliced through the heavy night air, soaring into the stands — and hooking just a few feet foul outside the yellow pole.

The collective groan in Angel Stadium was audible from the dugout to the back of the bleachers Monday, and it's getting louder every night.

One month into a lavish contract with a new team, baseball's most feared slugger has lost his pop.

"I know I can hit home runs," Pujols said. "When it's going to happen, I don't know."

Pujols didn't hit a homer for the Angels in April, shockingly going 23 games and 92 at-bats without once doing what he did 445 times over 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. Dating back to late last season, the three-time NL MVP and two-time World Series champion is in the longest longball drought of his career, going 29 games and 121 at-bats without a homer.

For a gifted power hitter in the ostensible prime of his career, it's a distressing stretch of futility even in the earliest stages of his 10-year contract. For the Angels, who are paying $240 million for homers and victories from arguably the best offensive player of his generation, it's a simmering problem that's threatening to boil.

"I don't think about that, man," Pujols said. "It could be tomorrow, maybe the next day, a month from now, I don't know. My job is to get myself ready to play and take my swing. ... Home runs, when they come, they come in bunches."

They're not coming at all in Anaheim, and that's not what the Angels expected after signing Pujols away from the Cardinals for the next decade with the third-richest contract in major league history. Even worse, Pujols' new teammates have slumped along with him, and last-place Los Angeles heads into May in an 8-15 funk despite Monday's 4-3 win over majors-worst Minnesota.

Not even matching the worst start in franchise history has caused the Angels to waver from publicly backing their new first baseman. They still expect to see the sublime power of the man who hit three homers in Game 3 of the World Series last fall, matching a feat only accomplished by Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson.

"Even though he's a leader and has been around, we've still got to lift him up, because the game will slap you in the face sometimes and humble you," said fellow veteran Torii Hunter, who shared Pujols' power drought until hitting three homers in the last four games.

Pujols has the highest batting average and slugging percentage of any active player, but he's hitting .217 with just four RBIs and eight extra-base hits — all doubles, and just one in the last nine games.

Pujols deploys a frustrated smirk whenever he's asked about his homerless start, saying he has "been in this situation before." He insists he's "putting good swings on the ball," as evidenced by that 350-foot foul ball in the fifth inning Monday night.

"I know what I need to do, and I'm making my adjustment," Pujols said. "I've been doing it for 12 years, so I know my hitting. Only God knows my swing better than me. When you're going through things like this, you've got to be careful who you listen to, because you have so many hitting coaches."

His actual hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher, irked Pujols on Monday night after the slugger learned the coach had shared fairly innocuous details about a pregame team meeting.

"That stuff needs to be private," Pujols said. "He should have never told the media. What we talked about at the meeting, not disrespecting Mickey, but that stuff should stay behind closed doors."

If Pujols wants extra coaching, he could get it from fellow players, talk-radio callers, and even fans on the street in Anaheim and Los Angeles, where Pujols' arrival was heralded by a massive marketing campaign and a sharp spike in ticket sales for the already-popular Angels, who outdrew the Dodgers for the first time last season.

The solutions range from swing adjustments to pressure-relieving mind games to extra days off. Pujols downplays the difficulties of switching leagues and studying the innumerable idiosyncrasies of 13 new pitching staffs, but Hunter acknowledges it's tough for Pujols.

Even ex-players have theories on Pujols, including Jim Leyritz, the former Yankees and Angels catcher who now hosts an Internet radio show.

"I can tell you that coming over from New York and playing here that first year (in 1997), it was tough to get motivated because the fans weren't the same," Leyritz said. "Every at-bat wasn't the World Series, and it took me a little while to get used to the slower pace. I'm sure that's what he's going through right now is that this is a little different pace than it was in St. Louis. It's different surroundings. It's going to take some time to adjust. Once he makes that adjustment, the rest of the American League better be careful."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has tried numerous changes to his lineup, which ranks 13th out of 14 AL teams with just 80 runs in the Angels' first 23 games. Scioscia insists Pujols will find his own way out of the slump, even while it deepens.

"He's got a routine that's worked for him, he's committed to it, and there's nobody working harder to get out of this than Albert," Scioscia said. "Anyone who plays this game accepts the fact that there are going to be tough times during the season and during a career. But his talent is real, and he's going to grind it out until he gets to where he needs to be."

But 247 players have homered this season before Pujols, who led the NL in homers in 2009 and 2010. He hasn't even had many narrow misses, among them that foul ball and a drive off the top of the left-field fence against Oakland during the Angels' previous homestand.

Scioscia has no intention of moving Pujols from his No. 3 spot in the lineup. The Angels still have five months left in a season of enormous expectations, and they're confident Pujols has plenty of time to help fulfill them.

"Pujols, he's always going to get the nastiest of everything," Hunter said. "He's going to get the hardest pitches. The ball is going to move the most. ... I know, and everybody else knows, this guy is going to hit. Once he gets that big home run to win a game, it's over."

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Area Scoreboard

Football

Friday, Sept. 19

*Ft. Zumwalt S at Washington    7 p.m.

Cardinal Ritter at Borgia    7 p.m.

*St. Clair at Union    7 p.m.

*Pacific at Sullivan    7 p.m.

*Hermann at Owensville    7 p.m.

Ash Grove at St. James    7 p.m.

Cuba at Brentwood    7 p.m.

*St. Charles West at Warrenton    7 p.m.

South Callaway at Wright City     7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 12

*Ft. Zumwalt North 49, Washington 0

*Borgia 35, St. Dominic 0

*Union 27, Pacific 19

*Sullivan 47, St. Clair 21

Hermann 65, Wentzville Liberty 7

*Owensville 29, St. James 28 (OT)

Cuba 22, Windsor 6

*Warrenton 14, St. Charles 6

*Bowling Green 55, Wright City 0

Friday, Sept. 5

Warrenton 14, Washington 6

Borgia 13, Maplewood-Richmond Heights 0 (forfeit)

*Union 32, Sullivan 19

*Pacific 20, St. Clair 18

*Hermann 52, St. James 20

Owensville 35, Cuba 8

*Wright City 36, Montgomery Co. 0

Friday, Aug. 29

Sullivan 30, Washington 8

Borgia 56, Union 13

Ozark 41, St. Clair 0

Potosi 34, Pacific 13

Hermann 54, Cuba 12

Blair Oaks 42, Owensville 0

St. James 36, Houston 18

Warrenton 28, Troy 0

Orchard Farm 36, Wright City 18

Friday, Aug. 22

Washington 26, St. Clair 21

Borgia 48, Owensville 12

Parkway West 49, Union 39

Pacific 28, De Soto 20

Park Hills Central 34, Sullivan 27

St. James 12, Cuba 6

Hermann 61, Montgomery Co 12

Warrenton 26, St. Dominic 23

Trinity 28, Wright City 24

Softball

Tuesday, Sept. 16

*Borgia at Notre Dame    4:30 p.m.

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt N    4:30 p.m.

*Union at Owensville    4:30 p.m.

*Pacific at New Haven    4:30 p.m.

*St. James at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

*Hermann at Sullivan    4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

Washington at Warrenton    4:30 p.m.

Sullivan at Northwest    4:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 18

*St. Dominic at Borgia    3:45 p.m.

*Union at Hermann    4:30 p.m.

*St. Clair at New Haven    4:30 p.m.

*St. James at Pacific    4:30 p.m.

*Owensville at Sullivan    4:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 19

Union at Ft. Zumwalt N Tny    TBA

South Callaway at New Haven    5 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 20

Union at Ft. Zumwalt N Tny    TBA

St. James Tny    TBA

Monday, Sept. 22

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt S    4:30 p.m.

Union at North County    4:30 p.m.

Warrenton at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

Principia at Sullivan    4:30 p.m.

Hermann at Cuba    4:30 p.m.

Owensville at Cuba    4:30 p.m.

St. James at Bourbon    4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 23

*Borgia at Duchesne    4:30 p.m.

*Holt at Washington    4:30 p.m.

*Pacific at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

*Owensville at New Haven    4:30 p.m.

*Hermann at St. James    4:30 p.m.

Volleyball

Tuesday, Sept. 16

*Sullivan at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt E    5 p.m.

*New Haven at Union    5:30 p.m.

*Pacific at Hermann    5:30 p.m.

*Owensville at St. James    5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

Washington at Duchesne    5 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 18

*St. Clair at Owensville    5 p.m.

*Union at Pacific    5:30 p.m.

*Hermann at New Haven    5:30 p.m.

*St. James at Sullivan    5:30 p.m.

O’Fallon Christian at Borgia    6:30 p.m.

Washington at Gateway Match Up    TBA

Friday, Sept. 19

Eagle Ridge at Crosspoint    5:15 p.m.

Providence at Crosspoint    7:15 p.m.

Washington at Gateway Match Up    TBA

Saturday, Sept. 20

New Haven Round Robin    9 a.m.

ECC at Wentworth    1 p.m.

ECC vs. Graceland JV (Wentworth)    3 p.m.

Washington at Gateway Match Up    TBA

St. Clair at Seckman Tny    TBA

Monday, Sept. 22

St. Clair at Salem    5 p.m.

Bourbon at Sullivan    5:30 p.m.

Dixon at St. James    5:30 p.m.

Hermann Tournament    TBA

Tuesday, Sept. 23

Cuba at St. James    5:30 p.m.

Crosspoint at Bethel    5:30 p.m.

Crosspoint vs. Thomas Jefferson    6:30 p.m.

Hermann Tournament    TBA

Boys Soccer

Tuesday, Sept. 16

Crosspoint at Fulton St. Albans    4:30 p.m.

Tolton Catholic at Borgia    5:30 p.m.

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt E    6 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

*St. Louis at ECC    4:30 p.m.

Union at Affton    5 p.m.

St. Clair at De Soto    5 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 18

*St. Clair at St. James    5 p.m.

Dixon at Sullivan    5 p.m.

Borgia at Trinity    6:15 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 19

Eagle Ridge at Crosspoint    4:30 p.m.

Tolton at Fulton SA    5 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 20

*Ft. Zumwalt S at Washington    10 a.m.

Crowder at ECC    2 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 22

Hillsboro at Union    5 p.m.

CYC Tny    TBA

Tuesday, Sept. 23

*Fulton SA at Thomas Jefferson    4:30 p.m.

North County at Union    5 p.m.

*St. James at Pacific    5 p.m.

*Borgia at St. Dominic    6:15 p.m.

CYC Tny    TBA

Cross Country

Thursday, Sept. 18

St. Clair at Lutheran North    4 p.m.

New Haven, St. James at Steelville Inv    4 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 20

Festus Inv.    9 a.m.

Hermann at Fulton Inv    9 a.m.

Thursday, Sept. 25

Washington at Rolla Inv    4 p.m.

Union, Owensville, St. James at Belle Inv    4 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 27

Hancock Inv    8:30 a.m.

Pacific at Viburnum Inv    10:30 a.m.

Monday, Sept. 29

St. Clair at Elsberry Inv    4 p.m.

St. James at Dixon    4 p.m.

Girls Golf

Tuesday, Sept. 16

*Borgia at St. Dominic    3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

Duchesne at Borgia    3:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 18

Ft. Zumwalt S at Washington    3:30 p.m.

Borgia at AAA Meet, Lutheran SC    TBA

Wednesday, Sept. 24

Washington at GAC Central Meet    TBA

Thursday, Sept. 25

*Duchesne at Borgia    3:30 p.m.

Boys Swimming

Saturday, Sept. 20

Borgia at Ft. Zumwalt W    8:30 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 29

Washington at Ft. Zumwalt South    3:30 p.m.

*Conference Games

Racing News