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Pujols' three-run homer puts Angels on top

ANAHEIM -- There's this swing Albert Pujols has that so many others don't. It's powerful yet disciplined, vicious yet poetic; short and compact, yet fast and furious. "It's perfect," Torii Hunter said so often during Spring Training, when things looked so much better for the Angels' expensive new first baseman.

Cardinals fans saw that swing a lot during his outstanding 11-year run in St. Louis.

And Angels fans were finally graced with it on Wednesday night, when Pujols blasted a three-run homer that drove in the winning runs of a 7-2 victory over the White Sox -- one that saw the lineup crank out 12 hits and the starter, Jerome Williams, pitch eight innings of two-run ball.

"It feels good any time you hit a ball like that," Pujols said of only his second home run of the year. "It's been a while."

Nine games, to be exact, since Pujols went deep for the first time on May 6. But that one was different. Pujols was out in front of an offspeed pitch then, his fly ball barely making it over the left-field fence to finally get him on the board.

No. 2 was the result of that patented Pujols swing, which had been mostly absent for almost six weeks. On an 0-1, middle-in fastball from righty Gavin Floyd in the third, Pujols kept his hands in and launched a rocket to left-center field, the ball eventually landing just below the rocks to drive in three and give the Angels a 4-2 lead that held up.

"I just got a good pitch to hit," said Pujols, who is batting just .213 after going 1-for-4 with a strikeout. "I wanted to make sure it was up and try to hit something up to try and stay away from the double play."

Those are the kind of swings he needs to produce more often.

"I think that's the swing he's looking for," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully he's going to be able to bottle it and keep it going."

"Yeah, that looked like him," White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham added. "I've seen a lot of his home runs."

Playing their first game since the dismissal of hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, and subsequent callup of Triple-A hitting coach Jim Eppard, the Angels (17-21) had one of their better offensive showings of the year, scoring seven runs and notching double-digit hits through the first six innings.

Pujols' homer was the difference, but Vernon Wells blasted his sixth to pad the Angels' lead in the sixth, Mike Trout was on base three times and had his seventh multihit game in his last 12 contests, Alberto Callaspo went 3-for-4 in the No. 2 spot, Mark Trumbo went 3-for-4 to put his batting average at .413 over the past 13 games and Erick Aybar got the Angels on the board by driving in his first run since May 2.

"The quality of our at-bats all night were good, and it led to some situations," said Scioscia, who rolled out the same lineup in consecutive games for the first time all year. "Some guys that maybe had been missing pitches didn't miss them tonight, and that was the difference in the game."

But the difference in the Angels' season will be whether that third-inning swing from Pujols will show up more frequently.

There have been positives from Pujols lately. He got three infield hits in Tuesday's win over the A's, has driven in 12 runs in his last 10 games -- after having just five RBIs through the first 27 -- and has hit a few balls on the nose recently.

"Albert, he's got a special presence in the batter's box, and when he's in a zone, he's the type of guy who will carry you for a long time," Scioscia said. "Hopefully he's starting to get a little frisky getting into that zone."

"I don't really go by my results," Pujols added. "I go by how I feel at the plate. And as of right now, I'm seeing the ball well, I'm putting good swings. Sometimes you wish you can go 4-for-4, but most of the time that's not going to happen.

Williams, who gave up six runs in 6 2/3 innings while pitching after a two-hour rain delay in Texas on Friday, did a much better job of keeping the ball down on Wednesday, using it to get ground balls that got him out of several tough situations.

Thanks to that, he gave up only two runs despite surrendering 10 hits, moving to 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA on the year.

"Damage control," said Williams, who won his seventh straight home start to begin his Angels career, setting a franchise record in the process. "Some of those hits, I left the ball up. I just have to bear down and keep the ball down."

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