Hamilton, Pujols start season in opposite directions
HOUSTON -- The regular season's first week has concluded and the Angels' two high-priced superstars have started off in opposite directions.
Josh Hamilton, who had one hit in his first 21 at-bats last season, is batting .500 with two homers and nine other hits in 22 at-bats. Albert Pujols, fully healthy after a season hindered by plantar fasciitis, is batting .200, with five hits, one RBI and zero walks in 25 plate appearances.
"It's a little frustrating at times because I'm getting some pitches I know I can do damage with," Pujols said after Sunday's 7-4 loss to the Astros, "but at the same time, it's part of the game. You can't let it get to you. Trust me, what I went through in 2012, I think I learned from that. I don't think this game is going to get to me with what I went through in 2012. That's the worst thing that can happen to a player."
Pujols, who was referencing his zero home runs and .194 batting average through the first 27 games of his Angels career, is still searching for his timing. The 34-year-old has gone 3-for-13 in the first three of a four-game series at Minute Maid Park, and seven of his plate appearances have resulted in grounders to the left side.
Pujols' last at-bat in each of the last two games has been a hard line drive to left-center field, the last of which resulted in his only hit on Sunday.
Now he needs to carry it over.
"It will carry over," Pujols said. "It's just a matter of time. Right now, I'm in between or out in front. You take as many swings as you can in Spring Training, but for me, it takes half the month of April, close to 100 at-bats, for me to start feeling good at the plate. If I have a great start, awesome, because it can take the pressure off you, but I still have a lot of at-bats left."
Hamilton was in desperate need of a good start, perhaps to prove to himself that the .909 OPS he posted in the final 45 games of last season was no fluke. Hamilton -- back to his customary 240 pounds -- has already drawn three walks, and he bounced back well in the first two games in Houston.
The 31-year-old struck out four times on Wednesday, with three of them coming off a lefty, but went 3-for-3 with a homer off righty Jerome Williams in the Angels' next game on Friday, then went 3-for-5 with another homer off lefty Dallas Keuchel on Saturday. That's a good sign for someone who posted a .596 OPS against southpaws last season.
"It's how you want to feel -- relaxed, pitch-to-pitch," Hamilton said. "You feel like your swing. You know it, and if something's not right, pitch-to-pitch, you change it. It would be really nice if it stayed that way."