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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Angels' new hitting coach was probably wondering what all the fuss was about during his first game in the dugout.
Albert Pujols welcomed Jim Eppard to town with a go-ahead three-run homer and Vernon Wells added a two-run shot off Gavin Floyd, leading the Angels to a 7-2 victory against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.
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Eppard was with the Angels for the first time, a day after Mickey Hatcher was fired by new general manager Jerry DiPoto 1½ months into his 13th season on the job. The team's offensive struggles led to the firing, including Pujols' slow start after signing a 10-year, $240 million contract as a free agent.
"We were not in an offensive funk because of Mickey," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Mickey's a great teacher and a great hitting coach, and we've had a lot of continuity here. But we all respect what the general manager's office is about. Jerry's position is to try to make changes that he believes is going to help us become better, and we have to respect that."
During Hatcher's watch, the Angels set franchise records in 2009 for average, hits, home runs, runs scored, RBI and average with runners in scoring position -- and won a World Series title in 2002. But DiPoto felt the time was appropriate to make the change.
"I've thought long and hard about it for quite some time, for a variety of reasons," DiPoto said. "But these are not easy decisions to make. I think the world of Mickey Hatcher. I really do. I think he's a wonderful person and a hard worker.
"But sometimes I do believe you need a different voice, and this might be that time. I hope this is a spark. I don't have a crystal ball, but I believe over time that it should make a difference. Jim Eppard's been in the organization for almost 10 years and he's had a very good history in the minor leagues."
It will be an easy transition for Eppard, who nurtured current Angels Howie Kendrick, Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, Erick Aybar, Peter Bourjos and Bobby Wilson as the hitting coach at Triple-A Salt Lake.
"What's great about it is that a lot of the guys here I've had come through Salt Lake, so I have a mental tape of those guys. And I've also had everybody else in spring training, so I'm pretty familiar with the group," Eppard said.
"I consider Mickey to be a good friend and as a mentor along the way. He was awesome. No ego. He allowed me in from day one. I was able to ask him questions, and it was a nice relationship. I feel bad for him, but at the end of the day, we all know that's baseball and these things happen. But I chatted with him last night and he was extremely happy for me, and he looked forward to meeting up and talking about it."
Jerome Williams (4-1) won his fourth consecutive decision, allowing two runs and 10 hits over eight innings with five strikeouts and no walks. The right-hander became the first pitcher in franchise history to win his first seven home starts with the club.
Floyd (3-4) surrendered seven runs and 10 hits in six innings, including both home runs. The right-hander had allowed only one home run in 40 2/3 innings during his previous six starts after giving up three in his season debut at Texas.
"I just got a good pitch to hit. It feels good any time you hit a ball like that. It's been awhile," Pujols said. "There are some times I feel good at the plate and hit the ball hard but don't catch any breaks. But you can't lose your focus. Every at-bat, no matter how I feel, I try to take it as the last at-bat of my career. Hey, listen -- this game is not easy. I've been saying that all year long. There are things that are out of your control."
It was the 447th career home run and second this season for Pujols, the three-time NL MVP who ended the longest regular-season drought of his career after 33 games and 139 at-bats in the finale of the Angels' previous homestand.
"I made mistakes in key situations when I needed to make better pitches," Floyd said. "They capitalize on those mistakes. Sometimes you get away with them. Albert is going to be producing like he usually does. He's one of the best hitters in the game. Everybody goes through a slump."
The Angels made it 7-2 in the sixth with Kendrick's sacrifice fly and Wells' sixth home run.
|With this three-run blast, Albert Pujols has four hits and five RBI in his past two games. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
|Chicago White Sox|
|Alejandro De Aza, CF||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.288|
|Gordon Beckham, 2B||4||0||2||1||0||0||0||.205|
|Adam Dunn, DH||4||0||0||0||0||2||2||.241|
|Paul Konerko, 1B||4||0||3||0||0||0||0||.356|
|A.J. Pierzynski, C||4||0||1||0||0||1||3||.287|
|Alex Rios, RF||4||0||0||0||0||0||4||.267|
|Alexei Ramirez, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.203|
|Dayan Viciedo, LF||4||1||3||1||0||1||1||.237|
|Brent Morel, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||2||3||.171|
|2B - Gordon Beckham (7, Williams)|
|HR - Dayan Viciedo (5, Williams)|
|RBI - Gordon Beckham (10), Dayan Viciedo (11)|
|2-OUT RBI - Gordon Beckham (5)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|Outfield Assists - Dayan Viciedo 1|
|DP - Morel-Beckham-Konerko|
|Chicago White Sox|
|Gavin Floyd (L,3-4)||6||10||7||7||1||4||2||3.44|
|Pitches-Strikes - Gavin Floyd 95-67, Jesse Crain 18-11, Will Ohman 9-6|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Gavin Floyd 6-6, Will Ohman 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Gavin Floyd 27, Jesse Crain 4, Will Ohman 3|
|Los Angeles Angels|
|Mike Trout, CF-RF||3||1||2||0||1||1||0||.333|
|Alberto Callaspo, 3B||4||1||3||0||0||0||0||.261|
|Albert Pujols, 1B||4||1||1||3||0||1||2||.213|
|Kendrys Morales, DH||4||1||1||0||0||1||2||.299|
|Mark Trumbo, RF||4||1||3||0||0||1||0||.344|
|Peter Bourjos, PR-CF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.193|
|Howard Kendrick, 2B||3||0||0||1||0||0||2||.267|
|Vernon Wells, LF||3||2||1||2||1||0||0||.244|
|Erick Aybar, SS||3||0||1||1||0||1||0||.190|
|Bobby Wilson, C||3||0||0||0||0||0||1||.214|
|2B - Mark Trumbo (8, Floyd), Erick Aybar (4, Floyd)|
|HR - Albert Pujols (2, Floyd), Vernon Wells (6, Floyd)|
|SF - Howard Kendrick (1)|
|RBI - Albert Pujols 3 (17), Howard Kendrick (12), Vernon Wells 2 (11), Erick Aybar (7)|
|2-OUT RBI - Erick Aybar (1)|
|CS - Howard Kendrick (2, 2nd base by Floyd/Pierzynski)|
|PK - Mike Trout (1, Crain)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|DP - Aybar-Kendrick-Pujols, Aybar-Kendrick-Pujols|
|Los Angeles Angels|
|Jerome Williams (W,4-1)||8||10||2||2||0||5||1||3.86|
|WP - Jason Isringhausen (2)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jerome Williams 103-69, Jason Isringhausen 16-13|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jerome Williams 13-4|
|Batters Faced - Jerome Williams 32, Jason Isringhausen 4|
|Attendance - 39027|
|Game Time - 2:25|
|Temperature - 76|
|Umpires - Home - Cory Blaser, First Base - Chad Fairchild, Second Base - Tom Hallion, Third Base - Alfonso Marquez|