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Prolonged ovation greets Albert's first blast

Prolonged ovation greets Albert's first blast

Prolonged ovation greets Albert's first blast
ANAHEIM -- Fans, as Torii Hunter said, can be a fickle bunch. One minute, they'll boo. The next, they'll stand in applause.

Albert Pujols experienced that during his last two games at Angel Stadium.

They booed him on Friday night, after an 0-for-4 game that saw his batting average dip below .200 and his homerless drought reach a single-season career high. Then, on Sunday afternoon -- after his fifth-inning two-run homer finally put an end to a 110-at-bat homerless streak -- the 37,540 in attendance graced him with a raucous standing ovation that didn't end until the next pitch was thrown. The homer gave the Angels the winning margin in a 4-3 victory.

"It's part of it," said Pujols, who was given a day off Saturday, when asked about the difference in treatment. "Don't try to blame it on the fans. If you want to blame somebody, blame me, because I can take it. I'm a big guy. But don't try to throw our fans in there, because they were really patiently waiting, and they got what they want to see every night -- hopefully."

Pujols' homer came on a 2-2 slider out over the plate, resulting in a line drive that landed in the Angels' bullpen just beyond the left-field fence. Only Braves center fielder Michael Bourn (120) and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (109) had more at-bats without a home run when the day began. The 110 at-bats were the longest a player with at least 400 career home runs had gone without hitting his first home run in a season.

Pujols, who has hit 446 home runs through what's likely a Hall of Fame career, predictably shrugged off its significance.

Will it take some of the pressure off?

"I don't think anything has been lifted off my shoulders, man," he said. "I don't think about what you guys write or what you think."

Was he getting impatient?

"Never," he said.

Did Saturday's day off help?

"I don't know," he said. "I'm not going to give credit to the day off, it's just part of it."

Pujols did perk up a bit when asked about hitting his first home run in front of the home fans -- the ones he'll play in front of for the next decade after signing a $240 million deal.

"It was good, definitely," he said. "I'm blessed to have the opportunity to do it here, in front of the fans. ... I'm not performing the way everybody expected, but I also know it's not only 27 games. You play 162 games. At the end, if you get into the postseason, that's what you play for."

Home run aside, Pujols still isn't where he needs to be at the plate. He went 1-for-4 on Sunday, putting his batting average at .196, and still hasn't had a multihit game since April 19. He had an ugly swing during a fourth-inning strikeout and was even a little out in front on the ball he hit out.

But sometimes, one swing -- one result -- can be all it takes to get going.

"One swing can change everything, because it changes your mindset," Hunter said. "It gives you confidence, motivation."

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.

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