Albert Pujols remains among baseball’s leaders with 30 homers, though he’s gone a season-high 14 games without going deep.
It’s unlikely that run will end Saturday night against a pitcher he has never taken out of the ballpark.
Johnny Cueto was sensational in his home debut for the Kansas City Royals in his last outing, and will look to continue his success against Pujols in this matchup with the Los Angeles Angels.
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Pujols’ resurgence has been a major story as he has reached 30 homers for the first time in three seasons. The slugger is hitting .203 since he last connected with one extra-base hit and three walks in 59 at-bats.
He committed his fifth error with a miscue that preceded Eric Hosmer’s go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning in Friday’s 4-1 defeat.
”A tough hop, nothing I could do,” Pujols said.
He’s 7 for 29 with a double as the lone extra-base hit versus Cueto (1-1, 2.05 ERA), who notched his second shutout and first with Kansas City (69-46) as he struck out eight in a four-hitter in Monday’s 4-0 victory over Detroit. It was Cueto’s first home game at Kauffman Stadium, where he received a loud ovation with Royals mascot Sluggerrr wearing a Cueto-esque mane of dreadlocks.
"I felt really proud the fans were just feeding me that last little boost of energy I needed," Cueto said with catching coach Pedro Grifol acting as his interpreter.
The right-hander’s only start against Los Angeles (60-55) came with Cincinnati in the 2013 opener. It marked his lone time facing Mike Trout, who went 1 for 3 against him.
Shane Victorino is 5 for 10 off Cueto.
The Royals evened this four-game set behind Danny Duffy, who pitched six effective innings despite hitting three batters. Angels starter Jered Weaver hit two.
Hosmer is hitting .333 with 11 RBIs in his last 11 games while Lorenzo Cain is batting .455 over an eight-game hitting streak.
"The good thing for us is we’ve got Hos and Cain going through real hot stretches right now," manager Ned Yost said. "That’s a lot of offense that both of those guys are producing."
Pujols is 0 for 9 in this series for the Angels, who have dropped 10 of their last 11 road games.
Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez will likely miss his fourth straight game with soreness in his left wrist. Drew Butera is starting in his absence.
Angels shortstop Erick Aybar may return after missing the first two games of this series with tightness in his lower back. Taylor Featherston has started each of the last two nights.
Los Angeles starter Matt Shoemaker (5-8, 4.36) seeks to bounce back after getting pounded for seven runs over 5 2-3 innings in Monday’s 8-2 defeat at the Chicago White Sox. He entered with a run of 19 scoreless innings.
The Angels have failed to score for the right-hander in his last three starts.
Shoemaker went 0-1 with a 6.60 ERA in three starts against the Royals last year, including one in the postseason. Hosmer was 5 for 8 against him in those games and Cain 4 for 9.
Kansas City’s Ben Zobrist is 6 for 9 with a homer and three doubles off Shoemaker. Zobrist is 4 for 6 with two walks in this series.