6/19/2013 9:21 P.M. ET
Pujols finally feels like the Albert of old
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- It was Saturday, June 8 at Fenway Park, a little after 1:05 p.m. ET, when Albert Pujols believes he reverted back to the prolific hitter of his St. Louis days. It seemed so uneventful, a plate appearance against lefty Felix Doubront that resulted in a lineout to first base.
But Pujols swears he felt something.
"I was like ... this is me right here,'" Pujols said. "That did it. I feel right now like my old me, like when I was in St. Louis."
Did you ever feel that way last year?
"Not at all, man -- I swear," Pujols said. "There were some streaks here and there that I hit, but I was battling. I never got to a point where I could say, 'Holy cow, that's my bat speed.'"
Now, Pujols said, he can. And the numbers show it. Since that fateful plate appearance, he's 17-for-44 (.386) with three homers and nine RBIs, his batting average going from .243 to .266.
Prior to a game on June 5, Pujols made a slight adjustment at the plate, then hit a two-run, eighth-inning homer against Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva that proved to be the difference in a 4-3 win. Immediately after that, Pujols approached Mike Trout.
"Head's up, dude," he told him. "I'm back now."
But it was four days later, in the first of a split doubleheader against the Red Sox, when Pujols says he "trusted" the slight mechanical adjustment, which he caught from watching videos of his Cardinals days.
"I trusted myself, like, 'OK, this is you, don't worry about the results, just take it with you," Pujols said. "I hit a home run the next day against [Ryan] Dempster [on June 9]. I made good contact in Boston. I didn't get that many hits, but I felt like I made good contact -- I hit some bullets. I did the same thing in Baltimore and I was like, 'OK,' and then I got my three hits against the Yankees [on June 14]. I'm going to stick with that approach that I had."
The adjustment has allowed Pujols' knee to feel a lot better. The ongoing plantar fasciitis on his left foot led to him putting too much pressure on his back side, which caused his surgically repaired right knee to swell up and would affect him at the plate. He isn't doing that anymore, and he's feeling like his old self -- perhaps for the first time since he joined the Angels.
"But I still feel like I can do a little bit better with it," Pujols said. "It's just part of making adjustments, and never feeling satisfied with what you do."
Hamilton dropped to seventh in batting order
ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton made eight outs in five plate appearances on Tuesday, dropping his batting average to .213, and he was showered by boos from his home fans. They were loud, too. Louder than when he was a visiting Rangers player, and louder than at any point during this nightmarish season.
Asked about it Wednesday, prior to a game in which he was dropped from second to seventh in the batting order, Hamilton said: "I can't blame them."
But there's a segment of the Angels fan base that doesn't believe Hamilton cares enough -- and that's where he disagrees.
"I'm not going to break my bat or do stuff like that on the field because you have kids watching," Hamilton said. "If they don't think I care, then they're mistaken, because it hurts me more than it hurts anybody not to be performing. I've done it for years against the Angels, and now I'm a part of the Angels and I want to do it for the Angels. I'm just going to keep doing the best I can."
Hamilton's best is nowhere near good enough yet. Mike Scioscia has given him four days off to clear his head. He's moved him from fourth to fifth, from fifth to second and now, from second to seventh -- a spot he hasn't occupied since 2009. And Hamilton himself has tried reverting to the past, trying to summon the simpler approach he used from 2008-09 and the pregame routine he used in 2010.
Nothing has worked. Through his first 69 games with the Angels, Hamilton holds a .213/.269/.388 slash line, with 10 homers, 24 RBIs and a .657 OPS that ranks 113th among Major League qualifiers.
He's been positive all year, picking out small victories within each plate appearance that he hopes can help him take steps forward.
But the longer the season goes on, the harder that becomes.
"When you're struggling and you stay in that spot when you feel like you've done about anything you can to get out of it, the confidence starts to waver some," Hamilton said. "Guys have been great, encouraging, things like that -- coaching staff, everybody."
Scioscia's latest lineup change put Peter Bourjos back in the leadoff spot and dropped Mike Trout to second, where the Angels' skipper prefers he hit. It came on a day an opposing lefty -- Joe Saunders -- was on the mound, but it sounds like the left-handed-hitting Hamilton will also bat seventh against righties.
"I think it's going to be good for him to not worry about hitting in the middle of the lineup -- just go down there and play baseball for a little bit and find his stroke," Scioscia said.
"There's no doubt that there are confidence issues with every player, there's always frustration that every player feels, and it's very clear right now, that as this season has progressed, and it's taken more and more time for Josh to get comfortable in the batter's box, that we need to do something to alleviate a little pressure."
Hamilton provided some positive signs on Monday, going 2-for-5 with a long two-run homer. But there have been a lot of those days, almost all of which have been followed up by another bad performance. The latest was three ground-ball double plays and two strikeouts.
One step forward, two steps back.
"That's the baffling part," Hamilton said. "In the past, it's either clicked at some point or you get a couple bloop hits and you kind of start moving in that direction. It goes back to the biggest thing, which is just being confident. And it's tough to do when you're not being successful."
Big & Rich opens summer concert series Saturday
ANAHEIM -- The Angels will host four postgame concerts this summer, in conjunction with Budweiser, the team announced on Wednesday.
Multi-platinum recording group Big & Rich will kick it off this Saturday, after the Angels play host to the Pirates. They'll be followed by Billy Currington on Saturday, July 20, after a game against the A's. The other concerts will be part of a two-night "Flashback Weekend" during the Astros series, featuring Queen Nation on Friday, Aug. 16, and Rain -- a Beatles tribute band -- on Saturday, Aug. 17.
The Angels will wear retro uniforms during "Flashback Weekend," sporting the 1972-88 unis on Aug. 16 and the 1966-70 ones on Aug. 17. Those will be available for auction on Angels.com in September.
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.