Pujols, Halos seek answers after sixth shutout

Pujols, Halos seek answers after sixth shutout

Pujols, Halos seek answers after sixth shutout
ANAHEIM -- Frustrations surrounding the mystifying early-season struggles of the iconic Albert Pujols finally made themselves audible at Angel Stadium on Friday night, when a large portion of the 33,160 in attendance noticeably booed the prized slugger as he finished 0-for-4 to put his batting average at .194 and his homerless streak at a single-season career high of 108 at-bats.

Pujols -- leaning back on his rolling chair in the Angels' clubhouse, as teammates scurried out after a 4-0 defeat to the Blue Jays -- didn't blame them.

"If I could boo myself, I'd boo myself, too," Pujols said. "But I know better than to just get myself down. My message to the fans is that they have a reason. They have a reason to boo. I'm not performing the way that I can. But just the way that I'm patient, they need to be patient in knowing that I'm going to be here for 10 years. And I don't read the future, but I guarantee you there's going to be more cheers than boos in those 10 years."

Right now, though, that's tough to see.

Because right now, the Angels' offense -- with Pujols at the center -- continues to disappoint, getting shut out for the second straight night and a sixth time this season.

"It seems like a season's worth already," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Especially for a team that can manufacture runs like we can. We just haven't pressured teams enough."

On Thursday, right after a three-game sweep of the Twins, they didn't pressure Brandon Morrow, who faced just one more than the minimum in a shutout.

On Friday, they didn't pressure young right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who needed only 97 pitches to hurl yet another shutout, giving up six hits and walking only one as the Angels failed to provide starter Ervin Santana any runs for the fifth consecutive start.

Santana gave up just a three-run third inning, including a two-run homer by Jose Bautista, while striking out 10 in eight innings. He's given up just five runs in a 15-inning span in his last two starts, two of which scored on a fly ball Torii Hunter lost in the sun on Sunday.

And still, he's the first Angels pitcher to lose his first six starts of a season, and the first pitcher overall since at least 1974 to have his team get shut out in five straight starts.

"I'm not a hitter," said Santana, whose ERA sits at 5.59 due to early struggles. "My position is just to pitch. I know we're trying the best we can to score runs, but it hasn't happened for me yet."

And it hasn't happened for Pujols, who flied out to right field, lined out to shortstop -- getting robbed of a single for the second straight night -- struck out swinging and grounded out to third, with a cascade of boos raining down after his third and fourth plate appearances.

With that, Pujols -- the three-time National League MVP who signed a 10-year, $240 million contract in December -- topped his previous career high of 105 single-season at-bats without a home run (set last season) and topped 2007 for the latest in a season his batting average has dropped below .200 (previously April 20).

Pujols hit 445 home runs in his first 11 seasons in the big leagues. Right now, though, only Braves center fielder Michael Bourn has more at-bats without a home run.

"I know, but he's going to be fine," said Bautista, whose Blue Jays have won six of seven and are 16-11. "He's one of the best hitters of this generation and I'm not too worried about him. He's going to pick it up at some point, and at the end of the year his numbers are going to be just fine."

Pujols continues to sound like a man who believes that.

Asked about teams drastically shifting to the left side of the infield, for really the first time in his career, Pujols looked up, smiled and said: "Believe me, sooner or later, that shift is going to be over. They're going to realize that that isn't going to work with me."

Asked about the head-scratching slump, Pujols pointed to religion and resume.

"When you've done this for 11 years, you don't just all of a sudden forget how to hit," he said. "I don't know what it is, I don't know what's in God's plan in all of this, but I believe it's going to be something special. At the end of the season, I can say, 'Wow, thank you, God, for allowing me to go through what I went through because this was the real picture.'"

And asked about the booing from the home fans, who one month ago were beaming over his arrival, Pujols could only nod.

"They have the right," he said, solemnly. "They pay a lot of money to come watch me play and I'm not performing the way that I know how to perform. But I also understand that I can't force it. I'm trying my best."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.