Trout, Pujols lead way as Angels' bats stay hot

May 17th, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- Whether it was patience or balls finding holes, Angels manager Mike Scioscia thinks it was just a matter of time.

The Angels' offense, red-hot over the last few games, was the story yet again Monday night, riding a pair of big innings to a 7-6 win over the Dodgers to open the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium.

"I don't think there's any rhyme or reason sometimes," Scioscia said. "It's just cyclical."

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Now, in the middle of a four-game winning streak, things seem much more relaxed than they were just a week ago, when the Angels were in the middle of losing six in a row.

"You got to just tell yourself that things are going to turn, and they did," center fielder Mike Trout said. "We're just having fun now and going out there and playing loose and winning ballgames."

Against the Rays and the Cardinals, the Angels struggled just to scratch off a couple of runs. Despite the overall health of the lineup, the offense was stale. From May 2-11, they scored just 24 runs in eight games.

They've turned it around. Entering play on Monday, they had scored 29 runs over their last four games. The Angels added to that total by constantly threatening Dodgers pitching.

The Angels jumped on right-hander Kenta Maeda for four runs in the third. Trout's two-run, bases-loaded single through the left side highlighted the inning, followed by the first of three hits from Albert Pujols to bring home another run.

"We put together a rally like that, and Mike comes through, then Albert follows that up," right fielder Kole Calhoun said. "That's the recipe for success, and that's what we're going to have to do to win."

Pujols was the catalyst again in a three-run seventh inning against Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez, as his two-run single gave the Angels the insurance they needed to hang on for a one-run victory. Pujols had his first three-hit game of the season, a promising sign from a player who entered Monday with a .197 batting average.

"I wish we had a crystal ball so we could figure out why, but we don't," Pujols said of his early struggles. "Sometimes things happen for a reason to make us tough or make us a better team to come together. Who knows? Over the course of 162 games, you're going to have ups and downs."

The top half of the order got on base, setting things up for Trout and Pujols to push the runs across. The duo combined to go 5-for-8 with a pair of walks and five RBIs on Monday night.

"We have those guys on base, and our job in the middle of the lineup is to clean it up," Pujols said. "It doesn't happen all the time, but we know that eventually we're going to get a lot of opportunities."

After finding success against former American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez on Sunday in Seattle and against Maeda on Monday in L.A., the surging Angels offense faces undoubtedly its toughest test Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium in left-hander Clayton Kershaw (5-1, 1.74 ERA).