ANAHEIM: Apparently, Albert Pujols isn’t quite as washed up as many fans were ready to believe.
Since a career-worst 0-for-26 drought had plenty of frustrated Angels fans calling for Pujols to get a day off, or at least dropped in the lineup, he’s gone on a tear.
Pujols hit two more homers, and Mike Trout added one, in the Angels’ 6-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night (Tuesday in Manila), after hitting one on Sunday.
Pujols’ blast to center field in the third inning and to left field in the fifth inning moved him alone into 13th place on the all-time list, with 565 homers. It was his 52nd career multi-homer game.
Just 48 hours earlier, though, Pujols had seen his average plummet to .132 after nearly a week of futility, including many at-bats in which he simply made poor contact with hittable pitches.
Before Sunday’s game, Manager Mike Scioscia fielded questions about what he could do with his slumping cleanup hitter. Scioscia said all he could do was be patient.
Pujols proved him right.
His two homers were the biggest hits on a night that began with the Angels making the most of a rather meager collection of batted balls in the first inning.
Yunel Escobar led off the game by getting hit by a pitch. Rafael Ortega then hit a dribbler up the third base line that came to rest just inches inside the line, for an infield hit.
Trout then walked to load the bases. Pujols hit a bouncer back to the mound that should have been an easy double play, but Ian Kennedy bobbled it and could only get one out at first.
A wild pitch then pushed home the first run of the night, and Kole Calhoun’s grounder to first drove in the second.
Andrelton Simmons hit an opposite field single into right – the first ball the Angels hit out of the infield – to make it 3-0.
That cushion helped Garrett Richards pick up his first victory of the season on a night he persevered without his best stuff.
Richards lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run that probably wouldn’t have scored if not for an error by Pujols. He held the Royals to only three hits.
All of that is the good news. The bad news is that he walked five, equaling the second most of his career. Richards has walked 14 in 302/3 innings, a dangerously high rate.
Richards also threw 115 pitches, after throwing 118 pitches in his previous start. They are two of just seven starts in his career in which he’s reached 115 pitches, and never before in consecutive starts. Richards will have an extra day before his next start, though.