Angels-Rays Preview


Albert Pujols claims he's not concerned with his numbers. The Los Angeles Angels' record won't give him much comfort, either.

The struggling slugger will try to begin shaking out of his season-opening slump as the Angels attempt to snap their four-game losing streak to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night.

Pujols is hitting .232 with four RBIs while still seeking to end the longest home run drought to start a season in his career. The nine-time All-Star is mired in an 0-for-16 slump after going 0 for 4 in Tuesday's 5-0 loss in the opener of this three-game series.

The first baseman's struggles are partly responsible for Los Angeles' 6-11 record, as the club is failing to live up to expectations after signing Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million contract.

"I don't concentrate on individual numbers, I concentrate more as a team," Pujols said. "I think we've got a better ballclub than what we've been showing. It seems like everybody in the lineup is struggling.

"I'm not trying to go out there to try to do too much. I've been in this situation before. It's part of the game. You can't let it into your head. You just need to keep fighting and knowing it's a long season."

The Angels are hoping to end their skid against the Rays (10-7) when they give the ball to C.J. Wilson (2-1, 2.37 ERA), another prized free-agent acquisition over the winter.

The left-hander is facing Tampa Bay for the first time since getting hit hard in Game 1 of the AL division series with Texas last fall. He surrendered eight runs and three homers in five innings of a 9-0 loss.

He's been much better in three starts at Tropicana Field, going 2-0 behind a 1.23 ERA while striking out 23 in 22 innings and holding the Rays to a .141 average.

Wilson's error contributed to a 4-2 loss to Oakland on Thursday. Two runs scored on his errant throw to first base in the fourth inning and he left after the sixth, yielding four runs and two hits while striking out eight.

The Rays are trying for their first five-game winning streak against the Angels, and Jeremy Hellickson (2-0, 3.26) is scheduled to get the ball in an effort to improve upon his last two starts.

The right-hander labored through 106 pitches in 5 2-3 innings Thursday, giving up three runs and six hits while walking three in a 9-4 win at Toronto. It was somewhat of an improvement from his previous trip to the mound, when he was tagged for five runs and three homers with three walks in five innings while not getting a decision in a 13-5 defeat at Boston on April 14.

"Overall not bad but still not as sharp as he can be," manager Joe Maddon told the Rays' official website.

Hellickson lost 5-1 in his only start against the Angels, allowing three runs and six hits while striking out 10 in 5 2-3 innings April 6, 2011.

Desmond Jennings hit a leadoff homer Tuesday, giving Tampa Bay's center fielder three home runs in the last five games. He has six RBIs over that span after driving in two runs and not homering over the first 12 contests.