Patient Pujols, Angels thriving
Rediscovering patience at the plate has helped Albert Pujols and his new team turn their season around.
Pujols homered and singled to drive in four runs, Mike Trout had three hits, including a two-run single, and Dan Haren pitched effectively into the sixth inning to lead the Los Angeles Angels to their eighth straight road win, 11-5 over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday.
Pujols went without a homer in his first month with the Angels, the team he joined in the offseason as a free agent with a $240 million, 10-year contract. Lately, though, he's back to being one of the game's most feared power hitters, the role he played so long in St. Louis.
His nine homers this season have all come in the last five weeks.
''I think I'm being patient,'' Pujols said. ''When we were going through that tough streak, I felt like I had to do extra, maybe chase a pitch out of the strike zone. Now, I'm able to take my walk, letting the guy in front of me or behind me do their job. And I'm taking what the other side gives you. That's something I've done over the last six weeks and obviously, the numbers are looking a little bit better.''
Angels manager Mike Scioscia couldn't agree more.
''He doesn't give away at-bats,'' Scioscia said. ''He's as consistent as you could possibly be, although the first month there were some things he was working through. He's going to be the whole package for us. He's going to break games open, he's going to get us back into games, take his walks, score runs. We need that presence in our lineup and he's bringing it.''
Pretty much the whole team is right now.
Torii Hunter, who homered twice and drove in six runs in Friday's series opener, had three singles and scored three times to help the Angels to their longest road winning streak since also taking eight straight away from home July 18-Aug. 2, 2009.
Trout scored three runs, including stealing second and third and coming home on an infield groundout after singling to lead off the fourth inning.
''We have great talent,'' Pujols said. ''It's a long season. I think the main thing is continuing to swing our bats the way we've been doing and giving some runs to our pitchers early so they can have room to breathe.''
The Rockies hit five home runs, two by Tyler Colvin, but lost their fourth straight overall and fell to 0-5 this season in interleague play.
The Angels capitalized on the Rockies' injury-battered pitching staff, which came into the game with a collective ERA of 5.14, highest in the majors.
Newly signed left-hander Jeff Francis, making his first start of the season in the place of injured Juan Nicasio (strained left knee), was tagged for eight runs and 10 hits in 3 1-3 innings. Francis, a former first-round draft pick of the Rockies, rejoined the team this week after opting out of his minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched for Kansas City last season after going 55-50 with a 4.77 ERA in 150 career starts with the Rockies from 2004-10.
''I don't want to judge it too much the first time out,'' Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. ''I don't want to feel I'm analyzing or overanalyzing Jeff. That's his first time after what he had been doing with the Reds. Let's let him take another start. What we did see was he threw strikes like he always does. They certainly didn't pound him. I believe they hit all singles.''
''I felt fine but it's obviously a very difficult place to pitch,'' Haren said, referring to hitter friendly Coors Field and the Mile High City's thin air. ''It's the same for both teams, but I couldn't imagine making half my starts here. Glad it's only one.''
Overall, Haren went 5 1-3 innings and gave up four runs and 10 hits. He struck out four and walked one in winning for the third time in four decisions. He was lifted in favor of LaTroy Hawkins in the sixth after giving up Nelson's homer.
Colvin homered for the second time when he connected off reliever Hisanori Takahashi in the seventh for the second multihomer game of his career.
The Angels scored against Francis (0-1) in each of the first four innings, highlighted by a three-run second in which Trout singled to drive in two before scoring on Pujols' single.
With the Angels leading 8-3 in the sixth, Hunter beat out an infield single and Pujols drove the first pitch he saw from reliever Guillermo Moscoso into the Angels' bullpen beyond the center field wall for his ninth home run of the season. It was the first homer for Pujols at Coors Field since May 30, 2007, ending his longest homerless drought at an NL park.
Pujols finished the day 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and walk to improve his batting average in interleague play to .346 since 2001, tops in the majors in that span.
NOTES: Colvin's first multihomer game was against Cincinnati on July 4, 2010, while with the Cubs. ... The Angeles send RHP Ervin Santana (2-7) against Colorado rookie LHP Christian Friedrich (4-1) in the series finale on Sunday. ... Hawkins was reinstated from the DL before the game after missing the last month with a broken right pinkie. The Angels optioned reliever Bobby Cassevah to their Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City. ... The Rockies designated reliever Esmil Rogers for assignment, meaning they have 10 days to either trade or release him. ... Angels C Chris Iannetta, a former Rockie, was scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment at Inland Empire on Saturday night. He has missed 27 games since fracturing his right wrist May 2 against Minnesota.