Pujols still lagging at plate, but not the only one

Pujols still lagging at plate, but not the only one

Pujols still lagging at plate, but not the only one
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Angels are still waiting for that offensive firepower they expected to boast at the beginning of the year.

Mainly, they're waiting for Albert Pujols to be himself again.

Seventeen games in, that certainly hasn't been the case. Pujols went 0-for-4 in the Angels' 5-0 loss to David Price and the Rays on Tuesday night, putting him at a .232 clip, extending his homerless streak to 69 at-bats (the most to start a season) and making him hitless in four consecutive starts (the first time he has done that since September 2010).

"Stuff like that, you can't let that get into your head," Pujols said. "You just have to keep fighting and know it's a long season. I don't concentrate on individual numbers. I concentrate more as a team, and I think we're a better ballclub than what we've been showing. But it just seems like everyone in the lineup is struggling."

Pujols vows he's "not trying to go out there and do too much."

But heading into the three-game series against the Rays, two major signs seemed to point to just that: He's pulling a lot of balls (18 of his 20 ground balls have been hit to the left side, according to an ESPN.com chart) and he's a tad too aggressive (swinging at 34.3 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, which would be the most in at least the last six years, and walking just five times).

"A lot of it is just the fact that he wants to be a big part of this offense," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. "A lot of it is just getting back to playing his style of baseball, and I think you're going to see that in him soon. ... He watches a lot of videos, and he prepares himself as good as any hitter I've ever seen in the game. That's why I know, after 162 games, you're going to see good results from him. I think he's just frustrated."

With Pujols struggling, the Angels' offense as a whole has been ineffective, ranking 10th in the American League in runs and tied for last in homers heading into Tuesday.

The biggest red flag Hatcher sees lies in the over-aggressiveness of his hitters. The Angels have swung at the fourth-most pitches out of the strike zone in the AL, 31.9 percent, and as a result have drawn the third-fewest walks.

"It's the 3-1's and the 3-2's; we don't get challenged in those counts because they know they're going to swing," Hatcher said. "You've got to give yourself a chance to just relax and cut your swing down and see the pitches. Guys are swinging like they know guys are going to throw a strike right there."