By the time Albert Pujols stepped to the plate in the ninth inning Sunday and hit a sharp grounder through the infield, he had been due for a hit.
Pujols is batting just .200 this season, but he has shown signs of breaking out. Before his two hits in the Angels' series finale against the Texas Rangers — he also doubled in the 11th inning — he had gone one for 12. But many of those had been hard-hit balls right at a fielder.
Despite the lack of production early on, Manager Mike Scioscia has little concern. Scioscia noted that Pujols has been swinging the bat well.
"Albert, probably his last 10 at-bats, he's hit six rockets and not a lot to show for it," Scioscia said before Sunday's game. "He'll be fine."
The Angels need him to be. With the trades of Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton, the Angels lost two power hitters from last season's lineup. Mike Trout, who is hitting No. 2 in the order, remains perhaps the best hitter in baseball. Behind him, the Angels could use some pop, especially from Pujols, the No. 3 hitter.
In his three previous seasons with the Angels, Pujols has typically been a leader for the team.
In 2012, Pujols had a shaky start. In April, he hit only .217 with no home runs and four runs batted in as the Angels languished at 8-15.
The next year was slightly better — he drove in 17 runs — but not enough to power the Angels through another ugly start, at 9-17. They never recovered. Despite only one more sub-.500 month, the Angels finished with their second losing season in a decade.
Pujols had his best start as an Angel last year, when he hit nine home runs and drove in 23 runs in March and April. As a result, the Angels were a more respectable 14-13.
As Pujols has taken longer to get going this season, the Angels have dipped below .500 again, at 9-10. But unlike in 2012 and 2013, no other division rival has capitalized.
The Angels still haven't come close to last year's production, when they led the majors in runs. This season, they are ninth in the American League.
On Sunday, the Angels had 15 hits in 11 innings but stranded 14 runners as the bottom of the order continued its struggles. The top six batters accounted for all but three of the hits.
"We were swinging the bat well," Trout said. "Just in key situations a couple balls didn't go through."
Kole Calhoun has been the hottest. He is six for 10 in his last two games, including a string of five hits in a row. Last Thursday against Oakland, he had the team's only hit, a two-run, game-winning home run.
Right-hander Jered Weaver (0-2, 5.24 ERA) will face Oakland and right-hander Sonny Gray (2-0, 1.91) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at O.co Coliseum. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1220.