Don't look now, but Pujols is hitting like ... Pujols

Don't look now, but Pujols is hitting like ... Pujols

Don't look now, but Pujols is hitting like ... Pujols
ANAHEIM -- There was a time, as he slumped through all of April and the first half of May, when it was practically inconceivable to think Albert Pujols could finish with any semblance of the numbers that made him the game's most elite slugger the last 11 years.

But since May 16, Pujols' 1.034 OPS ranks seventh in the Majors. And his current stat line -- .280 batting average, 18 homers, 60 RBIs -- inspires one to believe his year-end totals can be very close to Pujols-like if he continues his current pace.

"It doesn't surprise me," Pujols said in Spanish on Monday, prior to a three-game series against a Royals team he grew up watching. "That's the dedication and the time that I put in this game. And I've said it to you all year -- I told you in April, just like I'm telling you today, like I'll say next month, like I'll say in Spring Training -- the season is very long. Sometimes in this game, it has to go bad in order for you to do better later. I never worried about the numbers."

But Pujols will readily admit that he was putting too much pressure on himself early on, as evidenced by going 29 games with only three walks. Many looked at those numbers and figured Pujols was now in decline and that the 10-year, $240 million contract would be a giant burden for owner Arte Moreno.

The verdict is still out on that, but Pujols will point to similar struggles in past years, particularly the last one.

"The thing is, it's happened during the season, not the first month," Pujols said. "But I don't worry about that. I don't worry about the numbers or anything like that. What I'm thinking is this: What can I do tonight against Kansas City to help my team win? And that's my focus every day. I'm not a player who's selfish. I think about my teammates, about this organization and about the great team Mr. Moreno put together so that we have a chance to win a championship this year."

The Angels have a chance at that, in part because their offense is a lot more functional now with Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo thriving.

Those two, especially the 20-year-old Trout, have dominated the attention while Pujols has somehow slid into the background, with fans ever so captivated by what's new and different and fresh. Over his last 53 games, Pujols is batting .338 with 15 homers and 42 RBIs, including five homers in his last 10 contests.

He's done it rather quietly, though.

"I don't need to prove to anyone what I can do, because everyone already knows what I can do," Pujols said. "If I would've come here and hit .500 in April, everyone would've said, 'Oh, that was the same Albert that we all know.' But look at what I've done since then. Now everybody's like, 'Oh, he's back, he's back.' I've always been there. It's just that baseball is like this."