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Pujols goes deep, Angels win in first game after Hatcher's dismissal

CBSSports.com wire reports
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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.

Trailing 2-1, the Angels grabbed a 4-2 lead with one swing by Pujols, who drove an 0-1 pitch over the center-field fence after Mike Trout and Albert Callaspo opened the inning with singles.

"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.

Notes

  • The White Sox were in mourning over the death of longtime pregame instructor Kevin Hickey, who died Wednesday at 56 in Chicago after a lengthy illness. He had been hospitalized since the day before the season opener in Arlington, Texas.
  • With Hatcher's departure, the only coach left from Scioscia's original staff in 2000 is 1B coach Alfredo Griffin. Joe Maddon, Bud Black and Ron Roenicke all left to become managers.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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With this three-run blast, Albert Pujols has four hits and five RBI in his past two games.  (AP)
With this three-run blast, Albert Pujols has four hits and five RBI in his past two games. (AP)

Players of the Game
Los Angeles

M. Trumbo
AB 4
R 1
H 3
HR 0
RBI 0
Chicago

D. Viciedo
AB 4
R 1
H 3
HR 1
RBI 1
 
Chicago White Sox
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Alejandro De Aza, CF4110011 .288
Gordon Beckham, 2B4021000 .205
Adam Dunn, DH4000022 .241
Paul Konerko, 1B4030000 .356
A.J. Pierzynski, C4010013 .287
Alex Rios, RF4000004 .267
Alexei Ramirez, SS4000011 .203
Dayan Viciedo, LF4131011 .237
Brent Morel, 3B4000023 .171
Totals36210208  
Batting
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
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Dayan Viciedo 1
DP - Morel-Beckham-Konerko
Chicago White Sox
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Gavin Floyd (L,3-4) 61077142 3.44
Jesse Crain 1100110 2.25
Will Ohman 1100000 7.24
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
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Mike Trout, CF-RF3120110 .333
Alberto Callaspo, 3B4130000 .261
Albert Pujols, 1B4113012 .213
Kendrys Morales, DH4110012 .299
Mark Trumbo, RF4130010 .344
    Peter Bourjos, PR-CF0000000 .193
Howard Kendrick, 2B3001002 .267
Vernon Wells, LF3212100 .244
Erick Aybar, SS3011010 .190
Bobby Wilson, C3000001 .214
Totals31712725  
Batting
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
Fielding
DP - Aybar-Kendrick-Pujols, Aybar-Kendrick-Pujols
Los Angeles Angels
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jerome Williams (W,4-1) 81022051 3.86
Jason Isringhausen 1000030 2.63
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
Game Information
Attendance - 39027
Game Time - 2:25
Temperature - 76
Umpires - Home - Cory Blaser, First Base - Chad Fairchild, Second Base - Tom Hallion, Third Base - Alfonso Marquez