CLEVELAND -- Even the best hitters must make adjustments at the plate.
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, with 445 career home runs under his belt, has been powerless through the first month of the 2012 campaign. After going 0-for-4 in Sunday's 4-0 loss to the Indians, Pujols was batting .216 with no homers, including a .204 mark with two strikes.
What makes his two-strike average more alarming is that he has reached that disadvantage in more than 54 percent of his plate appearances (50 of 92).
Manager Mike Scioscia gives partial credence to the theory that Pujols is adapting to American League pitching, which he has only seen in nine All-Star Game appearances, Interleague Play and two World Series trips. With limited knowledge about what to expect from opposing hurlers, Pujols often finds himself in a two-strike hole.
With the majority of the season still to play, however, Scioscia isn't quick to draw any firm conclusions just yet.
"Your stats are naked at the beginning of the season and there's a lot of attention at the end, also," Scioscia said. "In the middle, a lot of times bad stretches are absorbed because of a good start and you just look at where the averages are and say, 'Oh, he's having a good year.' But it might be 100 at-bats without a home run that maybe gets less attention than it does at the start of the season."
Indians manager Manny Acta said any hitter faces a steep learning curve when switching leagues.
"It plays a role," Acta said, "You can watch as many videos as you want, but there's nothing like familiarity with the pitchers and the league that you're in. If you can hit, you can hit. But, it certainly plays a role."
Acta noted other subtleties that could factor into Pujols' slow start.
"Well, the continuity and feeling comfortable at home, having the same backdrop and all that," Acta said. "Although, the majority of them are designed for you to see the ball pretty good. It takes a while for people to get used to a different league. Certainly, he had a really good Spring Training in a different scenario. He's going to be OK. I just want to make sure you know that. Hopefully, right after Sunday.
Santana returns to scene of no-hitter
CLEVELAND -- Last July 27 was a sunny summer afternoon in Cleveland. The Angels were playing some of their best baseball of the season.
On that day, Ervin Santana no-hit the Indians.
Fast forward to April 29, 2012, a chilly day beside Lake Erie. The Angels have struggled out of the gate, off to their worst start (7-15) since 2002 after a 4-0 loss to the Indians on Sunday.
Santana has taken a loss in each of his first five starts after allowing two unearned runs over seven innings to the Indians on Sunday, lowering his ERA to 5.58 in the process. The right-hander has allowed a league-high 10 home runs in 30 2/3 innings.
"His stuff looks great, it's just really about putting pitches together," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's really just getting back to basics for Ervin and doing what he does well more consistently."
Though he's off to a dismal start, Santana should have been thrilled to face the team he no-hit, right?
"No. Not at all," Santana said, prior to Sunday's game. "It's just another game and a different year."
Rotation mate Jerome Williams said if he was in Santana's shoes, he would study what worked during the no-hitter and apply it to his next outing.
"If I did bad, then I'll look at what I can do better," Williams said. "If I did well, then I'll look at the things I did well and try to repeat them."
Santana hasn't forgotten the day he threw the ninth no-hitter in franchise history. In that outing, he walked one and struck out 10.
"It meant a lot because I'm in the books now," Santana said. "It's not something that's easy to do. Not many people get a chance to do that and I feel special because of that.
"It's definitely something I'll never forget."
Hunter not a fan of April slumps
CLEVELAND -- It's common for players to quip how they would prefer to endure a rough stretch at the start of the season than at any other juncture on the schedule.
In many players' minds, an abysmal April is preferable to a sluggish September.
Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, on the other hand, has no patience for slow starts. The Angels have dropped 15 of 22 to open the season.
"I'd rather go through it during the season," Hunter said. "You always want to get off to a great start. Everybody does. But I have faith that it's going to turn around. We have a bunch of veteran guys that can focus. Right now, things aren't going our way."