The Angels are like farmers examining every rain cloud for signs of a drought-breaking storm.
Every positive at-bat from slumping first baseman Albert Pujols is examined and held onto as a sign that he is about to turn around his disappointing season.
“He has a special presence in the batter’s box,” manager Mike Scioscia said after Pujols hit a three-run home run in Wednesday’s victory over the White Sox. “When he’s on, he’ll carry you for a long time. Hopefully, we’re seeing him start to get a little frisky, get into that zone.
“He’s told us, ‘You’ll know when I find it.’ We’ll see it. I do think he’s attacked the ball better than his numbers show. He’s hit some balls hard right at people because he’s been hitting everything to the left side and they’re bunching him (with defensive shifts).
“That pitch was middle-in but he stayed inside it and hit it to left-center. I think that’s the swing he’s looking for. Hopefully, he’s going to be able to bottle it.”
There were the first signs all season of that possibility Thursday.
Pujols hit home runs in back-to-back games, driving a fastball from Sox left-hander Chris Sale over the wall in center field for the Angels’ only run in a 6-1 loss to the White Sox.
The home runs were his only hits in those games. But Pujols has 13 RBI in his last 11 games, after driving in only two runs in the 18 games before that. He has a modest six-game hitting streak during which he has gone 8-for-28, raising his average from .192 to .214.
But Pujols was typically unwilling to analyze his at-bats for the media or make too much of one at-bat, or one home run.
“I don’t think about that,” he said. “There are some times I feel good at the plate and hit the ball hard but don’t catch any breaks. But you can’t lose your focus.
“Every at-bat, no matter how I feel, I try to take it as the last at-bat of my career.”
NOTES, QUOTES Trumbo has hits in seven consecutive plate appearances –DH Mark Trumbo went 4-for-4 with three singles and a double in Thursday’s loss to the White Sox. It was Trumbo’s first career four-hit game and came on the heels of a three-hit game Wednesday. He has hits in each of his last seven plate appearances, 14 in his last 22 at-bats and an eight-game hitting streak during which he is batting .571 (16 for 28). –OF Vernon Wells made one of the most spectacular catches of the season Thursday. He climbed up the fence in left field and reached over the wall to catch Gordon Beckham’s fly ball, stealing a home run from the White Sox infielder. –LHP C.J. Wilson walked six and hit a batter in 3 2/3 innings Thursday. The six walks matched a career high but only one of the four runs charged to Wilson was earned. OF Mike Trout dropped a fly ball in right field and the Angels had problems with the afternoon sun on more than one play, opening the door for the White Sox offense. –DH Kendrys Morales figures to be limited to pinch-hit appearances during the Angels’ interleague series in San Diego this weekend. No designated hitter will be used at the National League park. Morales has worked out at first base during pre-game workouts, but he has not played first in regular-season or spring-training games since fracturing his left ankle on May 29, 2010. Morales went into Thursday’s game batting .299 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 30 games this season. –RHP Jered Weaver will start the first game of the Angels’ series in San Diego this weekend. Weaver has faced the Padres only once in his career. He pitched the first shutout of his career on June 14, 2009 at Angel Stadium against the Padres, allowing five hits and one walk while striking out five. BY THE NUMBERS: 132-84 — The Angels’ record in interleague play since 2000, the best in the majors. The Angels play at San Diego this weekend. QUOTE TO NOTE: “You would only consider that if it was going to be a means to a better end. We don’t see that as anything that’s going to get us there right now. If you look at some different lineup configurations, we definitely feel it’s better to grind it out with where Albert is now.” — Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia, dismissing the idea of moving a slumping Albert Pujols down in the lineup.
ROSTER REPORT MEDICAL WATCH: –C Chris Iannetta (fractured right wrist) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 9. He underwent surgery May 11, and he’s expected to be out until late June or early July. –RHP LaTroy Hawkins (broken right pinkie finger) went on the 15-day disabled list May 7. He is expected to be out until early to mid-June. –RHP Michael Kohn (flexor strain in right arm) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery April 12. –OF Jeremy Moore (left hip surgery in March 2012) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 13. He is unlikely to return before mid-June.