It took them nearly up until the All-Star break, but Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton finally went back-to-back.
The Los Angeles Angels sluggers connected in the fifth inning of a 13-2 rout of the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night – the first time Pujols and Hamilton homered in consecutive at-bats this season.
After the game, Hamilton seemed a bit confused when asked for his reaction to the back-to-back homers.
”Oh, I hit the solo after he hit his?” Hamilton said sarcastically before pausing. ”Oh, that was awesome, man. We don’t think about stuff like that.”
Actually, not thinking about too much has served Hamilton well over the last couple of weeks as he looks to rebound from a rough start in his first season with the Angels. Hamilton had two homers — his first multihomer game with the Angels — and five RBIs to lead an offense that hit five homers in all.
His numbers (14 homers, 39 RBIs, .229 average) still aren’t close to what is expected from him approaching the All-Star break, but they are improving.
”I’m sort of just getting back to doing what you do and quit worrying about listening to everybody,” he said. ”Listen to the guys here I really care about, the coaches and the players, and go from there.”
The same could be said of the Angels’ entire lineup, which has been mostly responsible for the team winning 11 of 14 games to improve to 44-46.
Mark Trumbo and Brendan Harris also homered and all of the Angels’ home runs were no-doubters. They hit a pair during a five-run first inning and then followed with three more in a six-run fifth, providing more than enough support for C.J. Wilson (9-6).
”Offense is kind of a streaky thing sometimes,” said Wilson, who allowed one run in seven innings to win for the fifth time in six starts. ”You have instances where you score 13 runs, which is kind of a fluke no matter how good your offense is. I feel like our offense is capable of scoring six runs a night. That’s a good benchmark because of all the guys that have power throughout the lineup.
”We have a lot of guys that, I think, are on the way back up to their level of play after slow starts. That’s the key. We just need to get everyone playing just the way they can play. It’s not like they have to go out there and hit a grand slam every game or something like that.”
The Angels wasted little time in getting to Jeff Samardzija (5-9). Erick Aybar and Mike Trout started the game with doubles and Pujols drew the first of his three walks.
Hamilton followed with a drive over the right-field wall for a three-run shot, his 13th of the season. A batter later, Trumbo connected on a hanging slider and hit it into the left-field bleachers to cap a five-run first inning.
Leading 5-1, the Angels broke it open in the fifth as Pujols and Harris hit two-run shots and Hamilton added a solo homer.
Samardzija allowed nine hits and tied a career high by giving up nine runs, including four homers, in 4 2/3 innings.
”That game got out of hand,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. ”Give credit to some really good hitters. They get paid a lot of money to hit mistakes and they obviously didn’t miss `em tonight.”
It was a big night for the entire lineup, but the focus was rightly on Hamilton because of his early struggles.
”You make a big adjustment when you switch teams,” said Wilson, who also was a teammate of Hamilton’s with the Texas Rangers. ”You’re living in a new place, you’re going to the ballpark on a different route and all that stuff. I went through that last year, but the advantage I had was being from California.
”Josh wants to do well. He’s knows what he’s here to do. He’s knows he’s here to hit and play great defense, and if he doesn’t do well, he’s upset. He’s having more fun and that’s sort of contagious in itself.”
NOTES: RHP Scott Baker will throw a bullpen session at Wrigley Field on Thursday and general manager Jed Hoyer said he’s ”pretty close” to going on a minor league rehab assignment. Baker has been on the disabled list all year after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery and missing all of last year. … The Cubs continue the homestand with a four-game series against St. Louis. Edwin Jackson (5-10) faces the Cardinals’ Jake Westbrook (5-3) in the opener Thursday night. … After traveling from California to the Midwest for two games, the Angels return to the West Coast and open a three-game series at Seattle on Friday. Jerome Williams (5-4) faces the Mariners’ Joe Saunders (7-8) in the opener.