Pujols keys Angels' eruption against Giants

Pujols keys Angels' eruption against Giants

Pujols keys Angels' eruption against Giants
ANAHEIM -- For about a week, the Angels' offense was one giant ball of frustration, constantly throwing away premium run-scoring opportunities, getting little in the way of situational hitting and falling way below the expectations of their batting order.

On Tuesday night, against a struggling Barry Zito, they finally erupted.

Mike Trout had four hits, Mark Trumbo drove in five runs, Albert Pujols homered and the Angels set a season-high in runs en route to a 12-5 victory over the Giants at Angel Stadium.

C.J. Wilson wasn't at his sharpest, but he hardly needed to be.

The Angels' offense -- the same one that totaled 14 runs and went 7-for-55 with runners in scoring position over the previous seven games -- provided plenty of cushion, notching 10 hits and nine runs through the first four innings to move to 19-7 since May 22 and 37-32 overall.

"We have to start swinging the bats, and we did tonight, on a night when C.J. wasn't as sharp as he could've been," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose club went 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position. "We need to get that offense to where it's just going out there and pressuring other clubs and starting to churn out runs. We're not going to expect 12 every night, but we needed a game like this to get out in front and hold a lead."

More nights like these are possible if Pujols, Trout and Trumbo keep rolling.

Pujols set the tone early, hitting a Zito breaking ball out to left-center field for a three-run homer in the first inning, giving him 11 homers on the year and 10 since May 16 -- a span that has seen him bat .314 to raise his batting average from .212 to .258.

But it was Trout and Trumbo -- the two young studs Pujols has said will keep him young through the tenure of his 10-year contract -- that everyone was beaming about postgame.

Trout went 4-for-4 with two doubles and four runs scored, making him the first Angels rookie to have two four-hit games in a season since David Eckstein in 2001. With his fifth plate appearance, he qualified for the batting title.

And with a .337 batting average, which is second behind only Paul Konerko of the White Sox (.357) for the American League lead, he has a chance to capture it.

Pujols was asked what impresses him most about the 20-year-old Trout.

"How humble he is," the Angels first baseman responded. "No matter the success he has, the kid just comes and plays. And part of that, too, is he doesn't have pressure. He comes here, he plays around, and he acts like a veteran guy, and that's something that the veteran guys allow him to do. He belongs here, he knows that, and I think that's something that's really important to him. He's just going out there and playing, enjoying it, having fun."

In the fourth inning, Trumbo fell only a few feet short of hitting a grand slam to straightaway center field, settling instead for a three-run triple that allowed the Angels to pull away and provided the highlight to yet another spectacular night. Trumbo is now batting .345 with 10 homers over his last 22 games, his 47 RBIs ranking fifth in the AL and his .326 batting average sitting fourth.

"He has some amazing power," Pujols beamed. "But one good thing from him is he knows he can hit the ball from right field to left field. He doesn't have to pull the ball all the time."

Zito, who got off to a hot start this season but came in having given up nine runs in his last 11 innings, surrendered a season-high eight earned runs and went a season-low 3 1/3 innings.

The Angels got the first five hitters on against him, took a 4-0 lead in the first, added another in the second and yanked him out of the game when they loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, leading the way for George Kontos to yield Trumbo's blast.

"Today, I mean, I got to tip my hat," Zito said. "It's hard to do that, but I went back and watched the tape and a lot of these pitches are right where I wanted them, including the Pujols homer. So, I felt good out there. I was aggressive. I was prepared the right way. So this is one where I just say, 'These guys are big leaguers.'"

The opposing left-hander wasn't much better.

Wilson carried a 0.93 ERA over his last six starts, but yielded a season-high 10 hits and was charged with five runs (three earned) in 6 1/3 innings. Wilson hit his elbow on his knee while throwing a slider in the second inning and believes he simply wasn't right after that. He didn't have his curveball, he called his cutter "useless," his infield misplayed a few balls behind him and he exhausted a lot of pitches to a Giants team that made him work from the get-go.

Down, 9-3, the Giants (38-31) threatened against Wilson in the seventh, loading the bases with one out. That prompted Scioscia to go to the bullpen. Wilson, with 113 pitches, was hoping to waive him off. But it was no use.

"There's hope, and then there's reality," said Wilson, who still holds the AL's lowest ERA at 2.44. "He's a decisive guy. He had his mind made up."

LaTroy Hawkins immediately gave up an RBI single to Buster Posey, but Pujols then made two terrific plays at first base, a diving stop on a grounder to his left and a lunging snag of a line drive to his right.

Sure, the Angels tacked on three runs in the eighth to make it a seven-run game. But if Pujols doesn't make those plays, it's a different game.

"I work hard [on defense], as hard as I work on my hitting because this game changes," Pujols said. "Like right there, I saved three or four runs. That could've been a big inning for the Giants."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.