Pujols homers to back Wilson's stellar outing

Pujols homers to back Wilson's stellar outing

Pujols homers to back Wilson's stellar outing
OAKLAND -- These are the kind of nights Angels fans daydreamed about after Dec. 8, when C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols both decided they'd come to Anaheim on contracts totaling more than $300 million.

Together, many fans felt, they'd lead the Angels back to the playoffs.

For now, at least, they'll settle for one win.

Wilson and Pujols led the way against the Athletics on Tuesday, the $240 million first baseman hitting his fourth homer, the $77.5 million left-hander twirling eight one-hit innings in a 5-0 victory that snapped the Angels' fourth three-game losing streak.

Pujols had only one hit in four plate appearances, but one of his outs was a lineout to deep center field -- and his hit was a towering, third-inning homer to left field that laughed at the spacious dimensions of Oakland Coliseum.

"He's a monster," Wilson said. "He crushed that ball."

The home run gave Pujols three in his past seven games (after totaling one in his previous 36) and 16 RBIs in May (after an April that saw him drive in four). It gave the Angels a four-run lead that held up, and it tied Pujols with Vladimir Guerrero and Jeff Bagwell for 35th on the all-time list with 449 career homers.

But the only thing that matters is how he carries this over.

"Even though I only got one hit, I put good swings," said Pujols, whose batting average sits at .213.

"I think it's coming in drips and drabs," Angels manager Mike Scioscia added. "It's not like he woke up and all of a sudden, 'Hey, he has it.' He's been working towards this; it's been a process. There's no doubt that I think he's seeing the ball very well, he's getting in some good hitting counts, taking some pitches, and he squared up two balls tonight."

Wilson -- coming off a 3 2/3-inning start that saw him give up four runs, walk six and battle a stomach virus -- didn't give up his first hit until the second batter of the fifth inning and only allowed four baserunners all night (on two walks and a strikeout-passed ball).

"What are you going to say?" A's manager Bob Melvin rhetorically asked. "We got one hit."

"I realized that I was throwing a no-hitter for four innings or whatever, but the way they were actually putting the bat on the ball, I didn't really feel like I was dominating," Wilson said after striking out seven and throwing 125 pitches. "It wasn't like a really good swing-and-miss night for me."

It was a boo-filled night for him, though, with the announced crowd of 12,894 still very cognizant about what Wilson said last August, when he dissed the mound and was quoted as saying: "I hate pitching there. ... There's no fans there. It's too bad because the fans that are there are really adamant and they're really stoked on the team and they play drums and they wave flags and that's cool. But, you know, some games you go there and there's like 6,000 people there."

Ambiance aside, Wilson now has a 2.61 career ERA at the Coliseum.

"A lot of that stuff was taken out of context," he said when asked about his comments. "What I said was the fans that show up to the game are really loud and really adamant about supporting the team and it's a shame that more people don't go. That's what I said. So anybody that took that out of context, that's up to the headliners. Obviously, whether there's 10,000 or 20,000 people here, they're all loud. So yeah, you're going to hear them."

An Angels team that totaled just five runs in a recent three-game losing streak came out of the gate swinging, totaling three runs in the first inning thanks to a Pujols sacrifice fly and RBI singles by Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick -- an output that led to A's starter Graham Godfrey's night finishing after just three innings.

That was all Wilson would need.

"[The starting pitchers are] going to keep us in the game most of the time, and our job as an offense is to try to score early and hopefully give them a little bit of cushion," Pujols said. "C.J. was outstanding, keeping the ball down today. He didn't get in too much trouble. It was really big to win this game. Hopefully it gives us an opportunity to win the series tomorrow."

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.