Albert Pujols Breaking out for LA Angels; Are They Headed to the Top of AL West?

Michael Nargi@NargOnSportsSenior Analyst IMay 23, 2012

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 06:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits his first home run of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays in the sixth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 6, 2012 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have waited all season for Albert Pujols to start producing and earning the deal that he was given in the offseason. 

Finally, it appears that Pujols is beginning to show signs of breaking out.

Slowly but surely.

After going deep on Tuesday night against the Oakland A's, Pujols now has three home runs in his last seven games. Pujols also has at least one hit in 10 of his last 11 games. 

His average still sits at a disappointing .213, but it is going in the right direction. 

His lively bat comes to life at a crucial part of the season. The Angels' success goes hand in hand with Pujols' ability to break out of his early-season slump. The schedule in the next two weeks is pivotal to how this team fares for the rest of the season. 


Timing is Everything

The formula is simple: A Pujols hot streak will lead to wins, and in an important stretch of the season, that will result in serious ground being made up in the AL West.

The Angels are in the midst of a series with the A's, which will wrap up on Wednesday night. This series will be followed by a four-game series in Seattle to take on the Mariners. Both teams lead the Angels in the AL West.

The Angels will then welcome the New York Yankees to Anaheim before the division-leading Texas Rangers come to town, followed by the Mariners.

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 22:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim slaps hands with teammates back in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Coliseum on May 22, 2012 in Oakland, Califor
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

This is the most important stretch of the early season, and the Angels might be a lot closer by the time interleague play begins again on June 8. 

Familiarity for Pujols might play a role in this stretch as well. Many believe that Pujols is struggling because he has not faced the AL teams that often. He will face the Mariners twice in just over a week, and the Angels have already played the Yankees and Rangers this season.

The pitchers will be a bit more familiar to him this time around, and that could be the perfect recipe for success for Pujols and the Angels.

He might not be hitting balls out of the park in every at-bat, but his swing looks exceptionally better, and that is more than could be said a couple weeks ago.