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LAA@NYY: Pujols drills a long home run to left field

Elvis Andrus has been struggling at the plate lately. A trip to Anaheim for a three-game series against the Angels that starts on Friday might be just what Andrus needs.

Andrus goes into that series with a career batting average of .329 against the Angels. That includes a .339 batting average with 20 runs scored and 11 stolen bases in his last 27 games against them. He is hitting .377 with a .566 slugging percentage in his last 12 games at Angel Stadium.

"You always have one or two teams you hit really good against," Andrus said. "So yo're always glad when you get a chance to play on those fields, but you still have to keep doing the same things."

The Rangers won't have to contend with Josh Hamilton, who is sidelined with a torn ligament in his left thumb. But they do have to contend with Albert Pujols, who is off to a strong start for the Angels and has always given the Rangers trouble.

In his first two years with the Angels, Pujols has hit .297 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in 24 games against the Rangers. He has a .394 on-base percentage and a .604 slugging percentage and now he is off to a strong start this season while blowing past the 500-career home run mark.

"I told you guys before, I'm healthy and I'm feeling good at the plate right now," Pujols said. "I mean I don't need to tell you guys. You guys can see it. When you have your [legs under you], now you can rely on the power you have and it wasn't there the last couple years. You can look for your own eyes."

The Rangers also have to contend with Mike Trout, who is hitting .346 with a .470 on-base percentage and .616 slugging in 45 career games against the Rangers. That includes 36 runs scored, 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, 11 stolen bases and the usual array of excellent defensive plays in the field.

Thanks in large part to the hot starts from Pujols and Trout, the Angels finished April a game above .500 after completing a sweep of the Indians in a 7-1 victory on Wednesday.

This will be the first meeting of the season between the two long-time West rivals. The Rangers have had a decisive edge over the past three seasons, winning 36 of 57 games.

"They are a tough team, always have been," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Mike Scioscia manages those guys so they'll be ready to play. They have a healthy Albert and their starting pitching is holding things together. It should be a good series because they are always tough."

During those 57 games against the Angels, Rangers hitters are batting .300 with 86 home runs and a .496 slugging percentage. Their pitching staff has a 4.37 ERA against the Angels over the past three years. The Angels are hitting .263 with 63 home runs and a .431 slugging percentage.

Their pitching staff has a 5.57 ERA in those 57 games. The Rangers have been especially tough on the bullpen. Angels relievers have a 5.98 ERA against the Rangers since the beginning of the 2011 season and are 11 of 23 in save opportunities.

The bullpen remains a concern for the Angels and manager Mike Scioscia said it's one reason why his team is 2-7 in one-run games.

"If you just break down that small sample, of those nine games and seven losses, the lion's share of them point to some breakdowns we've had in the bullpen," Scioscia said.

Angels: Leadoff remains a revolving door
The Angels have used four different hitters in the leadoff spot since right fielder Kole Calhoun went down with a sprained right ankle on April 15. J.B. Shuck started six games there, Collin Cowgill has led off four times, Erick Aybar set the table on Monday. And over the last two games, it's been second baseman Howie Kendrick, who hadn't batted leadoff since Sept. 21, 2010, prior to that stretch of back-to-back games.

Kendrick -- like Calhoun, in many ways -- isn't a prototypical leadoff hitter, but Scioscia mainly wants someone who can get on base consistently to maximize the opportunities Mike Trout and Albert Pujols have with runners on base. Kendrick entered Wednesday with a solid .295/.378/.419 slash line.

"It's not that big of a deal," Kendrick said of leading off. "I go out and put up the same at-bat, with the same approach."

Rangers: Choo back in left field

The Rangers are expecting Shin-Soo Choo back in left field on Friday night. He has not played there since April 21 while dealing with a sprained left ankle. He was used at designated hitter on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Athletics.

If Choo is in left field and Adrian Beltre is at first base, it will be the first time they have started on defense together since April 7 in Boston. Beltre missed two weeks with a tight left quad muscle.

"We just need to get some consistency on offense and we'll be fine," manager Ron Washington said.

Worth noting

• Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis is 1-2 with a 2.03 ERA in his last four starts against the Angels in Anaheim.

• Angels pitcher Hector Santiago has made two starts and two relief appearances in his career against the Rangers. He has a win, a save and a 1.98 ERA against them. Prince Fielder is 5-for-12 off him.

• Santiago was 0-4 with a 4.44 ERA in April. It's the eight time an Angels pitcher has gone winless with at least four losses in April. But it's the second lowest ERA in that group. Clyde Wright was 0-4 with a 4.35 ERA in April, 1973. Ervin Santana was the only one with more than four losses. He was 0-5 with a 6.16 ERA in April, 2012. Comments