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Angels' Albert Pujols remains focused and gets results

Albert Pujols had a double and two singles, two RBIs and scored twice in Angels' 6-4 win over Minnesota
The three-game sweep of the Twins extended the Angels' win streak to six

The word "slump" exists for Albert Pujols, and the Angels slugger will occasionally drop it into conversation, but that doesn't mean he puts much stock into it.

"I don't believe in slumps," Pujols said. "I think that's something people have created to try to mess with people's minds. Sometimes, the hits don't fall. You can go 0 for 30 and hit bullets and they don't find spots. When I go through these things, I hold onto the positive and don't carry the negative."

Pujols went on a tear for the first 32 games of the season, hitting .302 with 10 home runs and 26 runs batted in. Then, for whatever reason — call it a slump, a funk, a run of rotten luck — the hits did not fall much when Pujols hit .185 with five homers and nine RBIs in 31 games from May 7-June 10.

Pujols' focus never wavered. Nor did his work in the batting cage, which has become legendary. Most of all, Pujols remained upbeat, mentally strong.

"This game is about catching breaks, and most of the time, you don't get breaks," Pujols said. "You train your mind. If you concentrate on things you're struggling with, you put more pressure on yourself. I try to focus on how I'm feeling at the plate and not worry so much about the results."

Though he's not mashing the ball like he did in April, Pujols is getting results. He had a double and two singles, two RBIs and scored twice Thursday to back the superb pitching of Jered Weaver in a 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium.

The three-game sweep of the Twins extended the Angels' win streak to six, pushed their record (44-33) to a season-high 11 games over .500 and completed the first undefeated homestand of six games or more since May 2004.

The Angels have won 12 of 13 home games, they have the second-best record in the American League and are 3 1/2 games behind Oakland in the American League West.

"We're absolutely starting to do some of the things we know we're capable of on offense," said Manager Mike Scioscia. "We have to keep it rolling."

Mike Trout has done the heavy lifting on offense — the center fielder had a pair of doubles, two RBIs and scored twice Thursday and is hitting .387 (41 for 106) with nine homers, 30 RBIs and 24 runs in his last 29 games.

But Pujols has also been a force, batting .347 (17 for 49) with one homer and 11 RBIs in his last 12 games. All three of his hits Thursday came with runners in scoring position, raising his average to .189 (17 for 90) in those situations. He was a career .344 hitter with runners in scoring position entering the season.

"When he's swinging it well, Albert is going to hit the ball hard whether there are runners in scoring position or no one on base," Scioscia said. "When he was struggling at the plate, he happened to have some guys in scoring position and wasn't getting hits to fall.

"But it was a good afternoon for him today. He really used the whole field. He set the tone and got some big hits. Hopefully, he's showing a little more of a comfort level in the batter's box."

Pujols hit an RBI single to left field in a two-run first inning, an RBI double to right in a two-run third and a single to right in a two-run seventh.

When the Twins didn't hold him on in the first inning, Pujols stole second. But he got a little too frisky on the bases in the seventh and was thrown out at second trying to tag on Trout's fly ball to left.

Pujols preferred to focus on the team, and not himself, after the game.

"This is not about me, man, it's about our ballclub and helping this organization win," he said. "It takes 25 guys to win a championship, and my goal is to do whatever it takes to help this club win, whether it's with my bat, my glove, if I can steal a bag here or there. That's my goal."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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