Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Funny day for Albert Pujols to go deep
By Pedro Moura
Albert Pujols high-fives with new hitting coach Jim Eppard after the Angels' 7-2 win over Chicago on Wednesday.
ANAHEIM -- Maybe it was just a coincidence that Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hit his second home run of the 2012 season the day after his team fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher in a clear attempt to shake things up with a struggling ballclub.
Actually, it definitely was a coincidence. No new hitting coach, Jim Eppard included, could make any real sort of difference in only a few hours on the job.
But it was a happy, welcomed coincidence for the Angels, who used a three-run homer from Pujols and a two-run homer from the also-struggling Vernon Wells as the difference in Wednesday's 7-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
The $240-million man took a middle-in fastball on an 0-and-1 count from Chicago right-hander Gavin Floyd and smashed it to deep left-center in the third inning. It was a no-doubter right off his bat, unlike the first homer he hit this season, 10 days ago against Toronto.
Manager Mike Scioscia noticed the manner of the home run -- specifically, that it looked different than anything else Pujols has hit in an Angels uniform. The ball moved quickly off his bat and cleared the fence in the deepest part of Angel Stadium with ease.
"It was good, I think, that he got a pitch middle in and stayed inside a little bit and drove it out to left center," Scioscia said. "I think that's the swing he's looking for and hopefully he's going to be able to bottle it and keep it going."
Scioscia also talked about being more relaxed at the plate and not being "do or die on every at-bat." He didn't specify Pujols in that context, but he did say that Pujols and Wells had been "missing pitches" in recent days.
"They didn't miss them tonight, and that was the difference in the game," Scioscia said.
Pujols noted it had "been a while" since he hit a home run but stressed that he tries to avoid emphasizing the results of his at-bats in favor of the processes and how he feels at the place.
"There are some times where I've felt good at the plate and hit some hard balls but just haven't caught any breaks," Pujols said. "Other times you feel lost out there and try to do too much.
"I don't really go by my result, I go by how I feel at the plate. As of right now, I'm feeling pretty good, putting good swings up there."
Pujols has been unlucky at times this season, even if some of that reversed Tuesday, when he had two RBIs on three infield singles. His season-long batting average on balls in play, a number that largely reflects chance, is a low .236, per FanGraphs. His career BABIP is a much more normal .309, and his 2012 number should begin to slowly revert back to that norm soon.
Scioscia has reminded reporters all season of that fact, albeit without the exact numbers. And he said Wednesday that he expects to see it loud and clear soon.
"I do think he's attacked the ball a little bit better than some of his numbers show," Scioscia said. "He's hit some balls hard, but the problem is they've all been on the left side of the infield and he's been getting bunched.
"The way he describes it, you'll know when he really finds it. I think we'll see it."