Preview: Cardinals battling bullpen struggles in AL swing

While Albert Pujols will seek to shake
out of his slump, the Los Angeles Angels will try to keep rolling with
another win over his former club.

Pujols and the Angels hope to take
advantage of a matchup with struggling St. Louis Cardinals rookie Shelby
Miller and earn a season high-tying eighth straight win Wednesday
night.

Pujols went 0 for 3 with two
strikeouts and a walk in his first matchup with St. Louis since leaving
to sign a 10-year, $240 million deal with Los Angeles after the 2011
season. The Angels, though, had few problems after scoring five runs in
the second inning Tuesday, winning 5-1.

“It was a little weird. But I was
fine, guys. I swear. I’m being honest,” Pujols said. “I mean, it would
have been a little different if it was in St. Louis. I mean, you can’t
forget the special times you had with those guys during those 11 years
there. That’s something nobody can take away – the success I had there
and how those fans and everybody in the community treated me.”

While with St. Louis, Pujols became
the first player to hit .300 with at least 30 home runs in his first 10
seasons but the three-time NL MVP has seen his average dip to .247
during a 4-for-37 slump.

Pujols batted a career-low .285 in his
first season with the Angels (40-43), who will try to match their eight
straight wins from May 18-26.

Facing the scuffling Miller (8-6, 2.79
ERA) could prove beneficial for Los Angeles and Pujols as he’s 1-3 with
a 6.38 ERA in his last four starts. The right-hander has also posted an
11.05 ERA in his first set of back-to-back defeats.

Miller failed to pitch five innings
for the first time in 17 career starts Friday in Oakland, giving up five
runs in 1 2/3 frames in a 6-1 loss. That defeat was one of seven in the
past nine games for the Cardinals (49-33).

“There are going to be tough times
where they have to push through and figure out how to still get outs,”
manager Mike Matheny told the team’s website. “He’s been throwing the
ball well as a whole, and we’ll see how he works through this now.”

The Angels are batting .290 while
outscoring their past seven opponents 43-19, but Jerome Williams (5-3,
3.21) couldn’t benefit in his most recent outing.

The right-hander gave up one run over
6 1/3 innings Friday in Houston but did not get a decision in a 4-2
win. The Angels scored three runs after he exited.

Williams is 1-2 in his last four
starts despite a respectable 3.91 ERA. Los Angeles has given him one run
or fewer in three of those games.

Williams is 3-3 with a 4.71 ERA in
seven career starts against the Cardinals but the most recent was April
21, 2006, while with the Chicago Cubs. Pujols hit a two-run homer off
him in that 9-3 loss, and Yadier Molina, the only current Cardinals
player to face him in that game, singled in one of his two at-bats.