Albert Pujols quietly getting the job done
— It’s hard to imagine Albert Pujols doing anything quietly considering the attention he draws with his gaudy power statistics, violent swing and massive contract.
But with Mike Trout grabbing most of the headlines in recent weeks, Pujols has raised his average from .211 on May 20 to .253 on Saturday with a relatively under-the-radar 18-game surge in which he has hit .354 (23 for 65) with six homers, seven doubles, 18 runs batted in, 10 walks and eight strikeouts.
“Being patient is the key,” said Pujols, whose struggles in April, when he hit .217 with no homers and four RBIs, contributed to the team’s 6-14 start. “When we were going through that losing stretch, I felt like I had to do extra and was chasing pitches outside the strike zone.”
Pujols capped a two-run first inning Saturday with a sacrifice fly to right and a three-run second with an RBI single to left. He walked and scored on Howie Kendrick’s single in the fourth and followed Torii Hunter’s sixth-inning single with a two-run homer — his ninth of the season — to right-center for a 10-3 lead.
“He’s been swinging the bat well for the last month,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Hopefully, we’re seeing him in a comfort zone that’s going to carry him through the year and help us reach our goal. There’s no doubt he’s been attacking the ball much better, taking the walks when they come and driving the ball.”
LaTroy Hawkins was activated off the disabled list Saturday after missing more than a month because of a broken right pinkie finger and retired two of the three batters he faced in the sixth.
Hawkins entered the season as a setup man, but with Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri, who has opened his Angels career with 15 1/3 scoreless innings, including a clean ninth Saturday, sharing closing duties and demoted closer Jordan Walden pitching more effectively, Hawkins will be used more in middle relief.
“You don’t realize how good he is until he’s gone,” Scioscia said. “He’ll add a different dimension and some depth to the bullpen. He’s ready for whatever role we give him.”
The first three batters in the Angels lineup, Trout, Hunter and Pujols, have gone 16 for 26 (.615) with 13 runs in the first two games against the Rockies. … Catcher Chris Iannetta, out since May 9 because of a broken right wrist, suffered a setback Friday, injuring his forearm while throwing before what was supposed to be his first game with Class-A Inland Empire. Scioscia described the injury as “normal stiffness,” but Iannetta’s rehabilitation assignment has been pushed back to later this week. … Jered Weaver (lower-back strain) threw aggressively off flat ground Saturday and is scheduled to throw off a mound Monday. He could return by next weekend.
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