Pujols back on track

I have to admit is was fun watching Albert Pujols struggle after he left St. Louis for the big money of LA, but now the slugger seems to be back on track.

The combination of elevated expectations, new surroundings, unfamiliar pitchers and stadiums, a family left behind 1,800 miles away – whatever else you can come up with – that led to the worst month of Albert Pujols’ baseball life has been dealt with, dismissed or dispersed.

Since May 6, Pujols has looked like himself again. After going 2 for 5 with a double and two runs scored in Sunday’s 10-8 win over the Rockies, he is batting .308 (40 for 130) with nine home runs and 31 RBIs since May 6.

“It was a slow start. But I said it earlier – it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Pujols said, resorting to a mantra he did indeed say repeatedly to reporters during that rough stretch. “You have to go through tough times. If everything is beautiful and flowery — I mean, you feel like you don’t have to do anything.

The MLB season is a marathon, so it’s easy to come up with snap judgments after the first month of a season. It’s probably safe to say that the real Pujols is finally stepping up.

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Mikey’s MLB power rankings

It’s hard to believe July is ending today and the dog days of summer are in full swing. It also means pennant races are heating up, and this year they are more so than ever. You can safely say the Rangers are playoff-bound, but every other division lead is no greater than 3.5 games, and we have three divisions that have the top two teams separated by 1.5 games or less. How awesome is that? I mean, this could be the greatest stretch run as far as the entire league, ever. Here are Mikey’s power rankings (yes, I just referred to myself in the third person, I need to stop that!)……

1. New York Yankees (65-37)—The Rays are inching closer, but the Yanks are still the team to beat. Adding Lance Berkman was a way for them to bully the Rays a little, like “Take that, small market team!” I also keep thinking about how they are going to sign Cliff Lee in the off-season and then they may play .800 ball next year. And really, who wants to see that?

2. Tampa Bay Rays (64-38)—Don’t think the Yankees aren’t sweating, however. Because these Rays just sweat talent.

3. San Diego Padres (60-41)—Seriously, when was the last time the Padres were contemplating trades at the trade deadline to bolster their team for the stretch? It’s such a great story this year.

4. Texas Rangers (60-43)—Speaking of great stories…..the Rangers are up by 8 games in their division and could be the first team to clinch a playoff spot.

5. Atlanta Braves (59-43)—Another great story. I wonder if Greg Maddux could come back and help these guys for a few months.

6. Boston Red Sox (58-45)—Now these guys will definitely be the odd team out, and it almost seems like if they keep winning it won’t matter.

7. San Francisco Giants (59-45)—Don’t look now, but the G-men are 2.5 games back of the Padres. And they have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, so they have the goods to contend down the stretch.

8. Chicago White Sox (58-44)—Another 5-game win streak, but barely hanging on to first place in the AL Central

9. Cincinnati Reds (57-47)—How many great team stories can there be in one year? Forget the year of the pitcher, it’s the year of the Cinderella. Sorry, Cardinals fans, I know you have a half-game lead, but Joey Votto just hit another home run. Wait, there goes another one!

10. Minnesota Twins (57-46)—It’s just a matter of time before the White Sox fade, and the Twins are putting ridiculous pressure on them with their own 6-game winning streak.

In the hunt: St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, LA Dodgers
Fading fast: New York Mets, LA Angels, Colorado Rockies

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