End of Albert Pujols’ home run drought is a winner for Angels

Albert Pujols has hit 446 home runs in a career that is certain to end in the Hall of Fame. But it’s unlikely many felt better than the one he hit in the fifth inning Sunday at Angel Stadium.

Because not only did the two-run shot account for the deciding runs in a 4-3 Angels win over the Toronto Blue Jays, silencing the boos from a fickle crowd of 37,548, but it was also Pujols’ first home run as an Angel, ending a career-long drought at 27 games and 110 at-bats.

“It’s a relief for him. And I’m pretty sure it’s a relief for us,” teammate Torii Hunter said of a slump that was threatening to consume Pujols and the Angels. “We don’t have to hear about Albert having a goose egg any more. I’m happy that he got this lifted off him. Now he can go out there and just swing and have fun.”

The ball traveled only 390 feet before short-hopping the back wall in the Angels’ bullpen in left field, hardly long enough to bridge the huge chasm between the $240 million worth of expectations for Pujols and his performance so far this season. But it was a start.

“I’m not performing the way that everybody’s expecting,” Pujols said. “But I also know that it’s only 27 games. You play 162 games. And at the end if you get into the postseason, that’s what you play for.”

Pujols was 0 for 2, dropping his average to .191, when he went to the plate with two out and a runner on second base in a game the Angels led, 2-1. An inning earlier he had swung meekly at a breaking pitch that was low and away, striking out. So after getting two strikes on Pujols in the fifth inning, right-hander Drew Hutchison went back there again; only this time he didn’t get the slider low enough or away enough and Pujols was able to reach out and drive it over the fence in left field.

“I was trying to bounce it in the dirt and I didn’t execute it,” Hutchison said.

As Pujols rounded the bases, the fans who had jeered him now cheered him while on the Angels’ bench Hunter was rushing everyone out of the dugout and up the tunnel leading to the clubhouse.

“I just said, ‘Everybody get off the bench so when he comes in, he sees nobody,’ ” Hunter said. “I thought that would be cool. I always wanted to do that. And it worked.”

Well, not really, since Pujols had little trouble finding his teammates. The question now is, has Pujols found his stride and have the Angels found theirs?

Pujols believes so, because after losing 15 of their first 22 games, the Angels have won five of their last seven.

“This game is about making adjustments,” he said. “Sometimes you want to do too much and that’s part of it. We did that for a couple of weeks early in the season and finally we just said hey, we know what kind of ballclub we have here.

“We need to pick each other up and stop trying to hit that two-run homer with nobody on base.”