After slow start, Angels' Matt Joyce enters a hot streak

Angels outfielder Matt Joyce hits three home runs in four games as he gets 'more comfortable in the box'

It wasn't a long, laborious session, but Angels outfielder Matt Joyce said time spent recently working with hitting legend Rod Carew paid dividends.

"Stuff about balance — this and that," Joyce said. "Just small things."

It took awhile — nearly 50 games — but as of late, Joyce is looking more like the hitter the Angels were hoping he would be when they traded for him last December.

On Saturday night, Joyce hit his third home run in four games, contributing to a five-homer barrage in the first two innings that powered the Angels to an 8-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium.

Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Carlos Perez and Albert Pujols also hit home runs to back starter Jered Weaver.

It marked the first time in history that the Angels hit five homers in the first two innings.

Pujols, in the lineup as the designated hitter because of a groin strain, homered for the third consecutive game.

But the most encouraging development for the Angels might be Joyce.

He hit a home run against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday and then hit another on Thursday against the Tigers. He barely missed another when a ball he hit was caught at the wall Friday.

"You want to get to the point where you feel comfortable," Joyce said before Friday's game, "and I feel like I'm there."

Joyce went into Saturday batting .182 with three homers and 16 runs batted in.

Those numbers are hardly worth celebrating. But with the recent surge and three multiple hit games in his last eight, it's clear to Angels Manager Mike Scioscia and hitting coach Don Baylor that Joyce is coming around.

Scioscia said Joyce was "much more comfortable in the box," a turn of events that allows for more lineup flexibility.

On Saturday, Joyce hit sixth in the batting order.

"When he's swinging it well," Scioscia said, Joyce could hit second, third, fourth or fifth in the lineup.

"If he starts being productive, it gives us a much deeper lineup and more lineup options, which is important when trying to create matchups," Scioscia said.

Baylor recounted his own initial struggles when he joined the Angels as a free agent in 1977 after four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and one with the Oakland Athletics.

"It's tough looking up at the [score] board and you're hitting a buck-80," he said. "You want those four hits now."

Baylor finished that season with a .251 batting average, 25 homers and 75 RBIs. Two years later, he was the American League's most valuable player.

Baylor said Joyce was "getting there, to understand what he wants to do and what he has to do — and not panic."

Joyce, 30, was eager to impress his new teammates and Angels fans with a solid start.

It did not work out that way.

"It's very tough when you come to a new team and new city and you have high expectations," he said. "And I think the fans, obviously, have expectations.

"It's tough to stay positive and go through the tougher times…. It's a roller coaster, and you just have to keep going."

Joyce said his fortunes and confidence began to turn in a May 12 game against the Colorado Rockies. He laced a two-run double to right-center field against reliever Rafael Betancourt to cap a three-run rally that gave the Angels a 5-2 victory.

"It gives you confidence to know that you can do it," he said this week. "And you start to get a hit here and there and feel a little more comfortable and a little more aggressive.

"From there, it's just trying to be consistent with it and have good at-bats, which usually leads to good things."

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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