Slugger Albert Pujols says the Angels' fortunes changed when the… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
A late-night comment by Albert Pujols in the wake of a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers on Monday shed some light on one of the problems that plagued the Angels during their dismal April and that may have contributed to the dismissal of hitting coach Mickey Hatcher in May.
“One thing we’ve been doing over the last two months is we’re really communicating well — that’s something we weren’t doing,” Pujols said after the Angels improved to a Major League-best 15-4 since May 22 and moved to within 2 1/2 games of the Texas Rangers in the American League West.
“We knew we were going to be where we’re at right now, but communication has been a key, how we’re going to approach a pitcher, saying, ‘Hey guys, he’s doing this right now, he’s changing his plan.’ We’re able to make adjustments, and that’s a big thing.”
Pujols, who hit a game-winning run-scoring single in the top of the ninth inning Monday night, wasn’t pointing his finger at Hatcher so much as he was himself and his teammates.
“Early on, everybody was pressing,” said Pujols, who is 12 for 26 (.462) with a homer, six doubles and seven runs batted in over his last six games. “It happens. It’s part of the game.”
Still, it is not difficult, especially for critics of Hatcher, to draw a correlation between Hatcher’s departure and the Angels’ offensive surge.
The team was 16-21 with a .250 average, .301 on-base percentage and .379 slugging percentage on May 15, the day Hatcher was fired. Since then, the Angels are 17-8 with a .275 average, .337 OBP and .432 slugging percentage.
Of course, the arrival of Mike Trout in late April, the emergence of Mark Trumbo as a middle-of-the-order force and Pujols’ recovery from a dreadful start have a lot more to do with those numbers than Hatcher's leaving.
Trout has energized the club, batting .354 with a .412 OBP and a team-leading 35 runs and 15 stolen bases; Trumbo is hitting .325 with a team-leading 14 homers and 39 RBIs, and Pujols, after hitting .217 with no homers and four RBIs in April, has raised his average to .260 with nine homers and 33 RBIs since.
“It’s really exciting that I’m going to hopefully spend the next 10 years with Trout, Trumbo and Peter Bourjos,” Pujols said. “Those guys are going to keep me young. It’s exciting to see these guys play. It’s really awesome. They don’t take anything for granted. They play hard.
“You walk in here, and those three kids always have big smiles on their faces. It doesn’t matter whether they’re 0 for 5 or 5 for 5, they’re laughing, smiling. They don’t get too high or too low. They stay humble all the time. They do what it takes to win.”
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