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

62nd Annual Borgia Pepsi Thanksgiving Tournament

Blue Division

Pool 1

McCluer North

Normandy

Carnahan

Pool 2

Cardinal Ritter

Pacific

Rockwood Summit

Gold Division

Pool 1

CBC

Soldan

Washington

Pool 2

Borgia

North Tech

Union

Monday, Nov. 24

CBC 77, Washington 52

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Cardinal Ritter vs. Rockwood Summit, PPD

Washington 63, Soldan 62

Borgia 83, Union 50

Wednesday, Nov. 26

Carnahan 71, Normandy 46

Pacific 64, Rockwood Summit 22

North Tech 67, Union 37

Thursday, Nov. 27

McCluer North 95 Carnahan 68

CBC 82, Soldan 55

Borgia 50, North Tech 45

Friday, Nov. 28

McCluer North 93, Normandy 39

Pacific 70, Cardinal Ritter 57

Saturday, Nov. 29

Blue Consolation — Rockwood Summit 47, Normandy 38

Gold Consolation — Soldan 78, Union 59

Gold Third Place — North Tech 63, Washington 57

Blue Third Place — Cardinal Ritter 71, Carnahan 46

Blue Championship — McCluer North 64, Pacific 58 (OT)

Gold Championship — CBC 67, Borgia 66

Boys Basketball

Monday, Dec. 8

Lutheran S 64, St. Clair 48

Borgia 61, Carnahan 51

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Lafayette 44, Washington 35

Friday, Dec. 12

Potosi 72, St. Clair 45

*Washington 69, Ft. Zumwalt North 65

Montgomery Co 62, New Haven 61

*St. Mary’s at Borgia    6:45 p.m.

Bourbon 75, Union 74

Glendale 63, Pacific 46

Saturday, Dec. 13

New Haven 46, Barat 40

Nixa 56, Pacific 46

Tuesday, Dec. 16

*Pacific 70, New Haven 35

*Hermann 67, St. Clair 49

*Ft. Zumwalt South 61, Washington 50

*Union 81, St. James 74

Friday, Dec. 19

*Owensville at St. Clair    4 p.m.

Washington vs. Parkway Central, GAC/Suburban Shootout, St. Charles Family Arena, 5:30 p.m.

*St. James at New Haven    6 p.m.

*Pacific at Union    7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 20

%Washington vs. TBA    4 p.m.

%Borgia vs. Poplar Bluff    5:30 p.m.

%St. Clair vs. TBA    TBA

%Sullivan Shootout

Girls Basketball

Saturday, Dec. 6

Cor Jesu 63, Borgia 60

New Haven 46, Moberly 39

Monday, Dec. 8

Pacific 73, Rolla 40

St. Clair 68, Dixon 37

Washington 54, New Haven 15

Tuesday, Dec. 9

*Borgia 59, Rosati-Kain 38

Union 53, Northwest 44

Thursday, Dec. 11

*Borgia 60, Notre Dame 53

Union 81, Bourbon 53

Friday, Dec. 12

New Haven 45, Principia 30

*Washington 59, Ft. Zumwalt North 32

Saturday, Dec. 13

West Plains 76, Pacific 37

Monday, Dec. 15

*Pacific 46, New Haven 28

*St. Clair 59, Hermann 50

*St. James 64, Union 37

Sullivan Tournament

Cuba 48, Principia 27

Borgia 68, Patriettes 29

Sullivan 56, Pattonville 43

Owensville 78, Farmington 54

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Sullivan Tournament

Farmington 61, Pattonville 39

Sullivan 68, Owensville 64

Principia 55, St. Louis Patriettes 42

Borgia 56, Cuba 38

Thursday, Dec. 18

*St. James at New Haven    6 p.m.

*Pacific at Union    7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 19

Washington at Francis Howell    7 p.m.

Sullivan Tournament

Seventh Place — Pattonville vs. St. Louis Patriettes, 4 p.m.

Consolation — Farmington vs. Principia, 5:30 p.m.

Third Place — Owensville vs. Cuba, 7 p.m.

Championship — Borgia vs. Sullivan, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 20

Union at Waynesville    5 p.m.

Wrestling

Monday, Dec. 8

Maplewood 48, Borgia 30

Brentwood 47, Borgia 36

Winfield 48, St. Clair 36

St. Clair 42, St. James 40

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Pacific 55, North County 10

Jackson 63, Washington 12

Farmington 63, Washington 6

Wednesday, Dec. 10

Borgia 36, Lutheran St. Charles 34

Winfield 54, Borgia 30

Thursday, Dec. 11

Union 72, Ft. Zumwalt East 9

Union 52, Principia 30

Union 54, Winfield 27

Saturday, Dec. 13

Union Tournament    9 a.m.

Borgia at McCluer S-Berkeley Tny    9 a.m.

Pacific at Farmington Tny    9 a.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 16

Owensville 61, St. Clair 16

Union 48, Owensville 27

Union 65, St. Clair 18

Friday, Dec. 19

Washington at Raytown S Tny    TBA

Union at Cape Central Tny    TBA

Pacific at Ft. Zumwalt E Tny    TBA

Saturday, Dec. 20

Washington at Raytown S Tny    TBA

Union at Cape Central Tny    TBA

Pacific at Ft. Zumwalt E Tny    TBA

Girls Swimming

Monday, Dec. 8

Washington at Eureka    4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Washington at Nerinx Hall    4 p.m.

LSC/OFC 134, Borgia 101, St. Dominic 83

Monday, Dec. 15

Borgia at Notre Dame (Forest Park)    4 p.m.

Kennedy 88, Washington 84

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Lindbergh 128, Washington 48

*Conference Games

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