Angels-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels finally are playing the quality baseball they expected from themselves all season.

Their effort away from home has ignited their current hot stretch.

Los Angeles seeks its longest road winning streak in nearly 24 years when it goes for a sweep of the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.

After an unexpectedly disappointing start to the season, the Angels (31-29) have gone 13-4 since May 22 - winning eight straight on the road during that stretch - including Saturday's 11-5 victory.

Los Angeles has won eight of 10 in Colorado since interleague play began in 1997.

Pujols took plenty of criticism during the team's rough beginning, hitting .197 with one homer through May 14. The slugger, though, has turned it on lately, and Los Angeles is on the verge of its first nine-game road winning streak since an 11-game run July 6-Aug. 2, 1988.

Pujols, who is 8 for 17 over his last four games, homered and drove in a season-high four runs Saturday.

''I think I'm being patient,'' Pujols said. ''When we were going through that tough streak, I felt like I had to do extra, maybe chase a pitch out of the strike zone. Now, I'm able to take my walk, letting the guy in front of me or behind me do their job."

Torii Hunter, the No. 2 hitter in front of Pujols, has been doing his job quite well lately. He went 3 for 5 with two homers and six RBIs in Friday's 7-2 win, then went 3 for 4 with three runs scored Saturday for the Angels, who have won three of four overall.

''We have great talent,'' Pujols said. ''It's a long season. I think the main thing is continuing to swing our bats the way we've been doing and giving some runs to our pitchers early so they can have room to breathe.''

Given the inconsistency of Ervin Santana, the offense may need to put up more big numbers Sunday.

Santana (2-7, 5.33 ERA) had seemed to turn his season around after losing his first six starts with a 5.59 ERA, following that stretch by going 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his next three outings.

The right-hander, though, is 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA in three starts since, giving up a season-high seven runs over 4 2-3 innings in his shortest start of the year - an 8-6 loss to Seattle on Monday.

"He's not throwing the ball anywhere near his potential right now," manager Mike Scioscia told the team's official website.

Colorado (24-34), which has lost four straight and is 0-5 in interleague play, got another poor performance from its starter Saturday, as Jeff Francis allowed eight runs in 3 1-3 innings.

''Three out of the last four days, we've pitched a total of 9 2-3 starter innings,'' manager Jim Tracy said. ''That's not going to work. That's just simply not going to work.''

He hopes Christian Friedrich can put a stop to that.

Friedrich (4-1, 4.50) has won his last three starts with a 4.00 ERA, getting an average of 10.50 runs of support per nine innings in that stretch. He didn't need that much, though, Monday after allowing four hits in seven innings of a 4-0 win over Arizona.

"I've had worse records with better stuff than I'm throwing right now," Friedrich said. "Wins are nice, but as long as the team gets the win, that's the most important part."

The rookie left-hander's only defeat came in an interleague start against Seattle, allowing a season-worst eight runs in five innings of a 10-3 defeat May 19.

What to Read Next