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Angels, Albert Pujols, winners of six straight, are surging

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

At the start of play on Sunday, the Angels had won six straight. This is especially noteworthy given the Angels' rather famous struggles earlier in the season.

On the strength of a 16-10 record in May, the Angels have pulled to within a game of the .500 mark. And while catching the mighty Rangers in the standings seems a bridge too far (CoolStandings.com gives the Angels a meager 4.5% chance of winning the AL West), Anaheim finds itself just 3.0 games out of playoff position. That's not bad for a team that was once 6-14.

Not surprisingly, the team's fortunes have improved along with Albert Pujols's. On May 11, Pujols's OPS for the season dropped to a miserable .505. Since then, however, he's authored a batting line of .297/.352/.609 and mashed six home runs. Over that span, just Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick and Dayan Viciedo, each with seven, have hit more homers.

Of course, there's more to the story than just Pujols. The arrival and early success of Mike Trout has been a boon, and the injury to Vernon Wells has finally forced manager Mike Scioscia to give Peter Bourjos regular playing time. Ericky Aybar and Alberto Callaspo will almost certainly improve at the plate given time (as will Bourjos), and Chris Iannetta (wrist) could return just before the All-Star break.

Elsewhere, the maligned bullpen now boasts four relievers with sub-3.00 ERAs (including Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri, who have yet to allow a run in 25.0 combined innings). The rotation, meanwhile, has the lowest ERA in the AL. Slow start notwithstanding, this is a good team.

No, the Angels aren't going to hawk down the Rangers, but with that second wild-card berth in play, they're very much a threat to reach the postseason.

Conveniently enough, the surging Angels on Monday begin a three-game home set with the Yankees, the team they're presently chasing in the AL wild-card standings.

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