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3 to Watch: The When will Albert homer edition

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider
When they faced each other regularly in the National League Central, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder would talk.

"Albert told me, we don't always have to hit home runs to help our teams win," Fielder said.

Fair enough, but they both got paid huge bucks over the winter in large part because they do hit home runs. And when they don't hit home runs, people noticed.

People have noticed Pujols most of all, because with one game remaining in April, he still hasn't homered for the Angels. Pujols averaged seven April home runs in his 11 years with the Cardinals, and never hit fewer than five.

Fielder homered Sunday in New York, breaking a 19-game homerless streak that was the third longest of his career. He has three April homers this year for the Tigers, after hitting six in his final year with the Brewers.

Fielder is dealing with many of the same things Pujols is, changing teams for the first time in his career and changing leagues. Even in this era where players change teams and leagues frequently, both are regularly facing pitchers they're not familiar with.

"Obviously, it's tough sometimes, when you don't know the guys you're facing," Fielder said.

Fielder homered Sunday off CC Sabathia, who he had faced just once before (going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts). Pujols had what figured to be a break Sunday when he saw Derek Lowe, who he had faced regularly in the National League (going 10-for-31 with one home run), but he went 0-for-4 to lower his average to .216, which would be the worst for any month in his career.

"Albert's great, but give the pitchers some credit," Fielder said. "Pitchers drive Mercedes, too."

Fielder is hitting .309, which is above his career average of .283. He has driven in 11 runs, well below the 26 he had in April 2011 but not a career low.

"I'm just trying to take what they give me," he said.

And the home run drought?

"I try to remember that home runs are thrown, not hit," Fielder said.

So far, three home run balls have been thrown to him, which isn't great but isn't bad enough to draw attention. He's one of 245 players who have homered in April, a list that still doesn't include one Albert Pujols.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Fielder will see a familiar face, or at least a familiar pitcher, in Royals at Tigers, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park. He has 23 career plate appearances against Jonathan Sanchez, who starts for the Royals. Fielder is 6-for-17 (.353) against Sanchez, who he saw in the National League and also saw two weeks ago in Kansas City. Fielder has never homered off Sanchez. In fact, he has never homered off any current Royal pitcher (in just 33 official at-bats). Duane Below comes out of the bullpen to make his first start of the year for the Tigers, trying to fill the spot in the rotation that Doug Fister will reclaim when he returns from the disabled list (probably next week).

2. The Red Sox have gone 6-1 since they last played at home, so you'd think the booing will be absent when they return for A's at Red Sox, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. The bigger question is whether the 720-game Fenway sellout streak, which dates back to May 2003, will come to an end. As of Sunday night, you could go online and buy 10 seats together, right behind the plate, so perhaps this will be the day. Another question worth asking: Will Clay Buchholz, who starts for the Red Sox, prove that he is healthy and can be effective. Buchholz has an 8.87 ERA through four starts, and has allowed at least five runs in each of them.

3. Pujols has never homered off any of the three Minnesota starters he'll face this week, but plenty of other hitters have. Twins pitchers have allowed 31 home runs this season, second in the majors behind the Blue Jays (who have allowed 34). Four of those homers have been allowed (in just 15 2/3 innings) by Liam Hendriks, who starts in Twins at Angels, Wednesday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. Too bad Pujols doesn't get to face teammate Ervin Santana, whose 10 home runs allowed are the most by any pitcher in the majors.



 
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