It would have been hard to imagine Albert Pujols' first month with the Los Angeles Angels going much worse.
Although he's opening May against perhaps one of the worst pitchers in baseball, it still might not be enough to get him out of his funk.
Pujols and the Angels look to put a disappointing April behind them Tuesday night when they face Minnesota's Francisco Liriano.
Despite defeating the hapless Twins 4-3 in Monday's series opener at Angel Stadium, Los Angeles (8-15) still finished with the third-worst April in the franchise's 52-year history and is nine games back of AL West-leading Texas.
Pujols was in the middle of the mess, concluding the month with no homers, four RBIs, a .217 batting average and a .265 on-base percentage - all career lows for a single month in which he appeared in at least 11 games.
"We're glad, and we hope we don't oblige and let him get one,' said Ron Gardenhire, manager of the major league-worst Twins (6-16).
Pujols, who ended a nine-game stretch without an extra-base hit Monday with a double that left fielder Josh Willingham lost in the lights, would seem to have a good chance to break out of his slump Tuesday considering how much Liriano (0-3, 11.02 ERA) is struggling. The three-time NL MVP was 0 for 3 against Liriano on April 12, however, and is hitless in five career at_bats against him.
While Pujols is still sputtering at the plate, Torii Hunter seems to have regained his power stroke. The ex-Twin homered for the third time in four games Monday, and is batting .357 in his last seven contests.
"It was a tough month for everybody,' Pujols said. "I think Torii is the only one who's swinging the bat well.'
Hunter is batting .431 with nine RBIs in 13 games against his former team since the start of last season, and is 2 for 5 lifetime against Liriano.
This will be Liriano's first start since April 22, as Gardenhire decided to skip his last start to give the left-hander a chance to work on his mechanics.
Liriano has yielded at least five runs in each of his first four starts, and has issued 13 walks over 16 1-3 innings while his strikeouts per nine innings have dipped to a career-low 6.6. His opponents' .459 on-base percentage is the second-worst in the majors among pitchers with at least four starts.
In his latest dud, Liriano allowed five runs, three hits, four walks and hit a batter in five innings of a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
The Angels have already contributed to Liriano's struggles, knocking him around for six runs, seven hits and three walks in five innings 2 1/2 weeks ago. The Twins, however, managed to rally for a 10-9 victory.
In three starts against Los Angeles since 2009, Liriano is 0-2 with a 10.57 ERA, easily his worst ERA against any opponent.
The Angels counter with Jerome Williams (1-1, 5.51), who allowed two runs and five hits in a season-high seven innings in Thursday's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay but didn't receive a decision.
The right-hander threw 1 1-3 scoreless innings of relief against the Twins last season, his lone look at them since a start for San Francisco in 2003.
Williams will likely have to face Joe Mauer, who is expected to return to the lineup after missing his first game of the season Monday to rest his sore left knee. The three-time AL batting champion is hitting .421 with four RBIs during a five-game hitting streak.
It is uncertain, however, if Justin Morneau will play after leaving Monday's loss - the seventh in eight games for Minnesota - with a sore left wrist.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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