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."

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Area Scoreboard

Boys Basketball

Monday, Jan. 12

%St. Charles 85, Bayless 32

%Westminster 64, Washington 44

Fulton SA at Providence    7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 13

Pacific 48, Eureka 38

%Borgia 72, St. Clair 36

#South Callaway 68, North Callaway 29

#Hermann 28, Russellville 13

Crosspoint 59, Heritage Christian Academy 18

%Francis Howell Central 87, Union 79

#New Bloomfield 63, Montgomery Co 59

#Harrisburg 48, New Haven 39

Thursday, Jan. 15

#North Callaway 65, Montgomery County 58

#South Callaway 84, New Bloomfield 58

Bethel at Fulton SA    6:30 p.m.

#Russellville 36, New Haven 34

#Harrisburg 51, Hermann 44

Friday, Jan. 16

%Washington 71, Bayless 43

%Union 65, St. Clair 52

*Crosspoint at Community Christian    6:30 p.m.

%St. Charles 67, Westminster 50

Providence at Fulton SA    7 pm.

#Seventh-place game — New Haven vs. Montgomery Co.    7:30 p.m.

Consolation game — Russellville vs. North Callaway    7:30 p.m.

%Borgia 60, Francis Howell Central 53

Saturday, Jan. 17

%Seventh-place game — Bayless 58, St. Clair 43

#Third-place game — Hermann vs. New Bloomfield   3:30 p.m.

%Consolation game — Washington 66, Union 59

%Third-place game — Westminster 66, Francis Howell Central 62

#Championship game — Harrisburg vs. South Callaway    6:30 p.m.

%Championship game — St. Charles 65, Borgia 40

Sunday, Jan. 18

Pacific vs. Jefferson City (Mizzou)    5:30 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 19

Union 86, Warrenton 62

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Park Hills Central 72, St. Clair 55

Fulton SA at Liberty Christian    6:30 p.m.

Crosspoint at CAGSL    7:30 p.m.

Linn 59, New Haven 38

Thursday, Jan. 22

Union 86, Cuba 72

Fulton SA at Rivers of Life    6 p.m.

Borgia 70, O'Fallon Christian 35

*Crosspoint at Thomas Jefferson    7 p.m.

Pacific 69, Wichita Independent 46

Friday, Jan. 23

Cuba at St. Clair    4 p.m.

Borgia at Trinity    6:45 p.m.

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

*Fulton SA at Crosspoint    7 p.m.

Pacific vs. Riverton at Frontenac Tny (Kan.)    8:30 p.m.

New Haven at Chamois    6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 24

Pacific vs. TBA, Frontenac Tny (Kan.)    TBA

Monday, Jan. 26

^Rock Bridge vs. Northwest    5:30 p.m.

^Lutheran South vs. Hillsboro    7 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 27

Jackson at Pacific    5:30 p.m.

^Borgia vs. Union    5:30 p.m.

~Warrenton vs. Chamois    6 p.m.

~Hermann vs. Owensville    6 p.m.

^Washington vs. St. Clair    7 p.m.

~Wright City vs. New Haven    7:30 p.m.

~Montgomery Co vs. St. James    7:30 p.m.

*Bethel at Crosspoint    7:45 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 28

Fulton SA at Thomas Jefferson    6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 29

^Rock Bridge-Northwest loser vs. Lutheran South-Hillsboro loser    5:30 p.m.

~Warrenton-Chamois loser vs. Wright City-New Haven loser    6 p.m.

~Warrenton-Chamois winner vs. Wright City-New Haven winner    6 p.m.

^Borgia-Union loser vs. Washington-St. Clair loser    7 p.m.

~Hermann-Owensville loser vs. Montgomery Co-St. James loser    7:30 p.m.

~Hermann-Owensville winner vs. Montgomery Co-St. James winner    7:30 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 30

^Rock Bridge-Northwest winner vs. Lutheran South-Hillsboro winner    5:30 p.m.

^Borgia-Union winner vs. Washington-St. Clair winner    7 p.m.

*Providence at Crosspoint    7:30 p.m.

Eagle Ridge at Fulton SA    7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 31

^Seventh-place game    2:30 p.m.

~Seventh-place game    2:30 p.m.

^Consolation    4 p.m.

~Consolation    4 p.m.

^Third-place game    5:30 p.m.

~Third-place game    5:30 p.m.

^Championship    7 p.m.

~Championship    7 p.m.

%Washington Tournament

#South Callaway Tournament

^Union Tournament

~Hermann Tournament

Girls Basketball

Monday, Jan. 12

St. Clair 60, Lutheran South 49

Pacific 65, Lindbergh 40

@Washington 79, Patriettes 28

#Harrisburg 69,  Russellville 45

#New Bloomfield 54, Montgomery Co 29   

Fulton SA at Providence    6 p.m.

@Helias 47, Sullivan 42

#North Callaway 49 vs. New Haven 39 

#Hermann 44 vs. South Callaway 40

Tuesday, Jan. 13

Ursuline 63, Pacific 44

St. Clair 58, Ft. Zumwalt East 27

Heritage Classical at Crosspoint    5:30 p.m.

@St. Charles West 45, Union 38

@Borgia 57, Eureka 35

Wednesday, Jan. 14

#Russellville 43,  New Haven 24

#North Callaway 63, Harrisburg 57

# South Callaway 46, Montgomery Co 28

#New Bloomfield 58, Hermann 50

Thursday, Jan. 15

Bethel at Fulton SA    5 p.m.

St. Clair 54, Northwest 38

@Sullivan 64, Patriettes 32

@Union 56, Eureka 26

Friday, Jan. 16

@Helias 38, Washington 35

Providence at Fulton SA    5:30 p.m.

#Seventh-place game — New Haven 52, Montgomery County 40

#Consolation — Russellville vs.  South Callaway  6 p.m.

@Borgia 47, St. Charles West 37

Saturday, Jan. 17

@Seventh-place game — Eureka 69, Patriettes 39

#Third-place game — Hermann vs. Harrisburg   2 p.m.

@Consolation game — Sullivan 45, Union 38

@Third-place game — Washington 55, St. Charles West 37

#Championship — New Bloomfield vs. North Callaway    5 p.m.

@Championship — Borgia 37, Helias 36

Monday, Jan. 19

*Owensville 78,  St. Clair 68

Warrenton 51, Union 44

New Haven 44, Montgomery Cnty 40 

*Duchesne at Borgia    6:45 p.m.-rescheduled for Friday, Jan. 23

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Fulton SA at Liberty Christian    5 p.m.

Pacific 63, Parkway West 43

New Haven 35, Wellsville 26

Crosspoint at CAGSL    6 p.m.

Borgia 56, O'Fallon Christian 26

Wednesday, Jan. 21

Pacific 55, Eureka 40

Thursday, Jan. 22

*Washington 56, Ft. Zumwalt East 30

*Crosspoint at Thomas Jefferson    5:30 p.m.

Silex 45, New Haven 44

Borgia 67, Trinity 22

Friday, Jan. 23

*Fulton SA at Crosspoint    5:30 p.m.

*Duchesne at Borgia    6:45 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 26

^Holt vs. Pacific    4 p.m.

^Union vs. Warrenton    5:30 p.m.

~Owensville vs. Montgomery Co    6 p.m.

Cardinal Ritter at Borgia    6:45 p.m.

^St. Clair vs. Lutheran South    7 p.m.

~Hermann vs. Wright City    7:30 p.m.

^Washington vs. Wentzville Liberty    8:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 27

Fulton SA at Barat    4:30 p.m.

~New Haven vs. Montgomery Co    6 p.m.

*Bethel at Crosspoint    6:15 p.m.

~Hermann vs. Wright City    7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 28

^Holt-Pacific loser vs. Union-Warrenton loser    4 p.m.

Fulton SA at Thomas Jefferson    5 p.m.

^Washington-Wentzville Liberty loser vs. St. Clair-Lutheran South loser    5:30 p.m.

~Owensville vs. New Haven    6 p.m.

^Holt-Pacific winner vs. Union-Warrenton winner    7 p.m.

~Hermann vs. Chamois    7:30 p.m.

^Washington-Wentzville Liberty winner vs. St. Clair-Lutheran South winner    8:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 29

*Borgia at Notre Dame    6:45 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 30

^Seventh-place game    4 p.m.

~Consolation    5 p.m.

^Consolation    5:30 p.m.

*Providence at Crosspoint    6 p.m.

Eagle Ridge at Fulton SA    6 p.m.

~Third-place game    6:30 p.m.

^Third-place game    7 p.m.

~Championship    8 p.m.

^Championship    8:30 p.m.

@Union Tournament

#South Callaway Tournament

^Washington Tournament

~Hermann Tournament

Wrestling

Tuesday, Jan. 20

*Ft. Zumwalt North 39, Washington 36

*Union 41, St. James 24

*Union 49, Sullivan 24

Warrenton 48, Union 30

Thursday, Jan. 22

Priory/Windsor at Pacific    5 p.m.

Borgia at Festus    5 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 23

Union, Pacific at MICDS Tny    TBA

Saturday, Jan. 24

Union, Pacific at MICDS Tny    TBA

St. Clair at Ft. Zumwalt South Tny    TBA

Tuesday, Jan. 27

*Pacific at St. Clair    6 p.m.

Borgia at Helias Tri-Meet    6 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 28

Borgia at Lutheran St. Charles    5 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 29

Union at Farmington/Summit    5 p.m.

*Pacific at St. James/Owensville    5:30 p.m.

Washington at Seckman    6 p.m.

St. Clair at De Soto    TBA

Friday, Jan. 30

St. Clair at Potosi/Festus    5 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 31

Pacific at Hazelwood East Tny    9 a.m.

Girls Swimming

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Timberland 140, Washington 96, Ft. Zumwalt East 87

Thursday, Jan. 22

Oakville 120, Washington 115, University City 9, Mehlville 6

Saturday, Jan. 24

Washington vs. Borgia    noon

Tuesday, Jan. 27

Washington at St. Charles West    3:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 29

Washington at Affton/Lutheran South    4:15 p.m.

Borgia at St. Dominic    8:30 p.m.

*Conference Games

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