If there was ever a time for Albert Pujols to hit his first home run with the Los Angeles Angels, Friday night's series opener with the Baltimore Orioles would seem to be it.
Pujols and the Angels look to continue the nightmare for Baltimore's Brian Matusz, who has been dreadful while losing 11 straight decisions.
Much has been made of Pujols still without a homer in his first 13 games with Los Angeles. This is the longest stretch to open a season without a home run for the three-time MVP, who hit 445 in his 11 seasons with St. Louis.
The slugger showed signs of emerging from his power slump with three doubles Thursday against Oakland, but the Angels (4-9) lost 4-2, their third straight defeat. Pujols claimed he still isn't worried or frustrated by the Angels' disappointing start.
"That's why we play 162 games,'' he said.
After missing a homer by a few inches Thursday, Pujols, batting .296 with four RBIs, could have some more opportunities to go deep against Matusz (0-2, 8.38 ERA).
Matusz has not won since June 6, 2011, against Oakland, and has a 12.10 ERA in 12 starts since. The left-hander has yielded at least four runs in all of those outings and five or more in nine, as opponents have hit 19 homers while batting .390 with a .459 on-base percentage.
Pujols has never faced Matusz, but right-handed hitters are batting .429 with two homers in 28 at-bats against him this season.
Against Toronto on Sunday, Matusz allowed five runs, seven hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-2 setback, which extended his losing streak to 11, the longest active run of defeats in the majors.
"It's so frustrating,'' Matusz said. "I know what went on last year, I know it was a horrible year and so far I'm off to a horrible start.''
One of his losses during his streak came against Los Angeles. At Angel Stadium on Aug. 21, Matusz was reached for six runs and nine hits in four innings of a 7-1 defeat.
Similarly to Pujols, teammates Howie Kendrick and Vernon Wells are also off to slow starts, but they might also be poised for a turnaround.
Kendrick is 4 for 9 with a double against Matusz, while Wells is 5 for 6 with a homer and three doubles. Wells also hit .313 with three home runs and nine RBIs in helping the Angels go 6-3 against Baltimore last season.
Pujols' only previous experience against the Orioles came in a three-game series in 2003, when he went 7 for 13 with three doubles and six RBIs.
Baltimore (8-5) arrives in Southern California to conclude a 10-game trip after Thursday's 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox, its third victory in four games. Adam Jones hit a two-run homer, his fifth, for the Orioles, who have won their first two road series after winning five all of 2011. They were outscored 24-12 in getting swept in their lone series at Angel Stadium last year.
Left fielder Nolan Reimold, who is batting .378 with four homers and eight RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak, sat out Thursday because of a stiff neck but is expected to play in the opener. He'll get a chance to make things difficult on Jerome Williams (0-1, 16.88), who is coming off a forgettable season debut.
Facing the New York Yankees on Sunday, Williams was tagged for five runs, five hits and three walks in 2 2-3 innings of an 11-5 loss.
The right-hander went 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts for the Angels last season, which includes a stellar outing against the Orioles. He gave up a run, six hits and no walks in seven innings of a 7-1 victory Aug. 21.