Albert Pujols is back.
Call it a slump, a funk, a choke or whatever you want, Pujols simply hasn’t been himself in his first year in Anaheim. Whether it’s the new league, new team, new stadiums or the weight of the 10-year, $250 million contract he signed, the man they call The Machine has looked incredibly human so far with Los Angeles Angels.
His batting average bottomed out at .190 on May 8, but he has slowly been getting his swing back since. Last night, he hit a two-run homer off Jason Vargas in the first inning, leading the Angels to a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Pujols hit two more singles for a 3-for-4 night and even stole his second base of the season.
The home run gave Pujols just five round trippers on the year, but four have come in his last nine games. I think it’s safe to say he’s found his swing.
Life after St. Louis has gotten off to a rough start, but Pujols did recover from a slow beginning to 2011 to have a stellar year for the Cardinals. On May 25 of last year, he was hitting just .261 with eight home runs. Despite the sluggish start, he still hit .299 with 37 homers and 99 RBI.
The Angels won their third-straight game last night, lifting their record to 21-25. They sit 6.5 games back of the first-place Texas Rangers. So far this month, the Halos are 13-10, while the Rangers have cooled off considerably and are 10-12 in May.
Last night’s homer run was Pujols’ 450th of his career, making the 32-year-old the fourth-youngest player to reach that milestone behind Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jimmy Foxx.
The Angels play Game 2 of their four-game series with the Mariners tonight, as Ervin Santana looks to extend the team’s winning streak. Blake Beavan, who has never faced Pujols, gets the start for Seattle.