Pujols hitless as Angels are shut out
Pujols hitless as Angels are shut out
ANAHEIM – That offensive revival the Angels seemed to have going this week? It now looks like it was Twin-aided.
The string of zeroes on the Angel Stadium scoreboard continued Thursday night. This time, though, the Angels were on the wrong end of the line as Brandon Morrow held them to three hits in a 5-0 victory for the Blue Jays.
The Angels scored 17 runs in a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins, including a 9-0 win behind Jered Weaver's no-hitter Wednesday night. But the Twins' pitching staff has the highest ERA in the majors (5.77) and left town after Weaver's gem with Manager Ron Gardenhire fuming over his team's poor play.
One night later, it was the Angels hitters who once again looked frustrated.
"Frustrated? I don't use that word," said Angels first baseman Albert Pujols who went hitless in three at-bats (all ground balls to third base) and has spread a swath of frustration throughout the ranks of Angels fans with his .202 average, still no home runs and only five RBIs.
"I tell you what – you catch those streaks in this game where you don't feel comfortable. But if you look back over my 110 at-bats, look at how many times I hit the ball hard and did not get hits to show for it. You just have to laugh and know if I continue to do that, sooner or later, in my next 500 at-bats, I'm going to get my hits."
If you do look back at Pujols' 104 at-bats as an Angel, you'll find nearly a third of them ended with a ground out to third (19 times) or short (12). At times, Pujols' swing does not seem to be generating much lift (hence the lack of a home run) nor do opposing pitchers seem to be approaching him with as much fear as his Hall of Fame resume would warrant.
"Those were rockets to third base," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said – in full defense mode - of Pujols' three at-bats Thursday.
Angels starter Dan Haren might have offered a more honest assessment of Pujols' struggles.
"He's obviously scuffling. Everyone knows that," Haren said. "He cares more than anybody else. He's one of the first guys here. He's constantly watching video. It's not for lack of effort. It'll turn around. He's one of the greatest hitters of all time.
"Just like when I have to face Jose Bautista or (Edwin) Encarnacion, who's been on fire, you want to throw a little harder. You want that cutter to have more cut. He gets that every at-bat. He has for 11 years. Guys are pitching him inside and sliders away. You'd think they'd make some mistakes. But they're doing a good job and he's just missed the mistakes."
If video and extra batting practice haven't worked, maybe Pujols could be forgiven for searching out other ways to turn things around. When he arrived at the park Thursday, it was with his goatee shaved off. But Pujols brushed off the idea that his new look was an attempt to change his luck as well.
"I don't believe in luck, man. That's not who I am," he said. "I believe in God. Luck is for people who are desperate. I'm not desperate. I do it three, four times a year."
Morrow didn't need much luck Thursday. He gave up leadoff singles to Mike Trout in the first and third innings. Both times, however, Trout was erased as part of a double play and Morrow retired 14 consecutive batters before Mark Trumbo's double leading off the ninth. Morrow faced just 28 batters, one over the minimum, in completing the fifth shutout of the Angels in their first 26 games this season.
Haren retired the first six batters he faced, extending the hitless streak by Angels pitchers (Jerome Williams, Weaver and Haren) to 17 innings before he gave up four consecutive hits, including a three-run home run by J.P. Arencibia in the third inning. That also snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak by Angels pitchers, stretching back to the eighth inning of Mondays' game against the Twins.
The Jays added two more unearned runs in the sixth inning on a throwing error by Trumbo (his fourth error in eight starts at third base).
"Sometimes in this game, you have stretches where you're taking and giving," Pujols said. "Right now, I'm on the side where things are not going my way and as a team they're not going our way."