ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Albert Pujols welcomed his new hitting coach to town with a go-ahead three-run homer and Vernon Wellsadded a two-run shot to lead the Los Angeles Angels to a 7-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.
Jim Eppard was with the Angels for the first time as hitting coach after replacing Mickey Hatcher, who was unceremoniously dumped Tuesday night by new general manager Jerry DiPoto 1 1/2 months into Hatcher’s 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.
It was an easy transition for Eppard, who is in his 10th season in the organization and nurtured current Angels players Howie Kendrick, Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, Erick Aybar, Peter Bourjos and Bobby Wilson as the hitting coach at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Jerome Williams (4-1) won his fourth straight decision, allowing two runs and 10 hits over eight innings with five strikeouts and no walks. Last Friday at Texas, the right-hander relieved C.J. Wilson the night before his scheduled start because of a 56-minute rain delay – then gave up six runs and 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings without getting a decision because the Angels were already trailing in the first inning when he came in.
Gavin Floyd (3-4) surrendered seven runs and 10 hits in six innings, including both home runs. The right-hander had allowed just one homer in 40 2-3 innings over 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.
It was the 447th career homer 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. The Halos increased the margin to 7-2 in the sixth with Kendrick’s sacrifice fly and Wells’ sixth homer.
The No.8 hitters for the Angels and White Sox each drove in their team’s first run. Aybar opened the scoring in the second with an RBI double after a two-out walk to Wells, and Dayan Viciedo tied it in the third for the White Sox with a home run into the rock pile in left-center. Alejandro De Aza singled two batters after Viciedo’s fifth homer and scored on Gordon Beckham‘s double.
Notes: The White Sox were in mourning over the death of longtime pregame instructor Kevin Hickey, who died Wednesday at age 56 in Chicago after a lengthy illness. Hickey, who spent six seasons in the majors as a reliever for the Chisox and Baltimore Orioles, had been hospitalized since the day before the season opener in Arlington, Texas. “No one wanted to win more, no one was more optimistic, no one cared more and no one took more pride in his job,” 1B Paul Konerko said. “Ask anyone in our clubhouse, every person who appreciated what Kevin did to help the White Sox win baseball games.” … With Hatcher’s departure, the only coach left from manager Mike Scioscia’s original staff in 2000 is 1B coach Alfredo Griffin. Joe Maddon, Bud Black and Ron Roenicke all left to become managers. … During Hatcher’s watch, the Angels set franchise records in 2009 for average, hits, home runs, runs scored, RBIs and average with runners in scoring position – and won a World Series title in 2002. … All of Floyd’s last six starts against AL West teams have been on the road (1-5, 4.35 ERA). … One of the many Angels employees handing out Bourjos bobbleheads to the fans as they entered the ballpark was Bourjos himself – in full uniform. … It was a rough night on the basepaths for Trout, who was picked off first by RHP Jesse Crain in the seventh and was thrown out by LF Viciedo when he tried to stretch a single into a double in the fifth.