Angels slugger Albert Pujols strikes out during the third inning of the… (Chris O'Meara / Associated…)
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The struggles of Albert Pujols continued Wednesday night, the Angels first baseman extending his hitless streak to five games in a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field.
Pujols, hitless in his last 19 at-bats, grounded out to shortstop, struck out twice and walked in four plate appearances, dropping his average to .222. It marked only the second time in his career he has gone hitless in five straight games; he last did it in September of 2001, his rookie year.
Pujols also extended his homerless streak to start the season to 18 games and 72 at-bats, the longest power outage to start a season in his career. Pujols, who averaged a homer every 14.3 at-bats in 11 years in St. Louis, went 27 games and 105 at-bats without a homer from last April 24-May 22.
The Angels went zero for nine with runners in scoring position and fell to 6-12 on the season, the team’s worst start since they went 6-14 to open 2002, the season they won the World Series.
Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson, as he has in all four of starts this season, pitched well enough to win, allowing two runs and six hits in seven innings and striking out 11, one short of his career high. Instead, he fell to 2-2.
Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, the 2011 American League rookie of the year, allowed one run and five hits in six innings, striking out five and walking two, to earn the win and improve to 3-0.
Rays closer Fernando Rodney, the former Angels reliever who lost his closing job in the first week of 2011, allowed an unearned run in the ninth while earning his sixth save.
The Rays took a 2-0 lead in the third, striking first when Ben Zobrist hit a solo home run to left field. Carlos Pena followed with a single to center, stole second and scored on Jeff Keppinger’s two-out double to right field.
The Angels sliced the lead in half on Vernon Wells’ solo homer to left-center with one out in the fourth, his fourth homer of the season and the Angels’ second homer in 57 innings.
Tampa Bay added what turned out to be a huge insurance run in the eighth when Angels reliever Jason Isringhausen walked pinch-hitter Brandon Allen with the bases loaded and two outs to force in a run.
Torii Hunter singled to open the ninth for the Angels and eventually scored when Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist bobbled Erick Aybar’s potential game-ending grounder for an error. But pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo flied to left to end the game.
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