Slow Start

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Expected to contend for the American League pennant are the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and the Angels.

In an early showdown in the Bronx this past weekend, New York flexed its muscles by taking two of three games from the Halos.

Some of the excitement that came out of Anaheim was the off-season signing of free agent first baseman Albert Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson.

A hitter with a .328 lifetime average, Pujols, a three-time National League Most Valuable Player, led the St. Louis Cardinals to a pair of World Series titles and there’s hope he’ll do the same in Orange County.

In Sunday’s 11-5 loss, Pujols, who inked a 10-year, $240-million deal, had a run-scoring single in the seventh inning that cut New York’s lead to 8-5.

Pujols is batting .243 with no home runs and four runs batted in, but the clubhouse is panic-free.

Mark Trumbo homered in the second to give the Angels (3-6) a 1-0 lead, but New York’s Raul Ibanez countered with an RBI single in the bottom of the frame.

The Yankees (5-4) posted a four-run third on Curtis Granderson’s RBI grounder, Alex Rodriguez’s run-scoring hit, Mark Teixeira’s RBI double and Nick Swisher’s sacrifice fly.

Derek Jeter’s three-run homer to right in the fourth inning gave the Bombers an 8-1 edge, but Chris Iannetta’s two-run blast in the fifth made it 8-3, and Maicer Izturis’ run-scoring double in the sixth closed the gap to 8-4.

Swisher had an RBI single in the seventh, and Ibanez’s two-run poke made it a six-run lead.

Wilson’s 7-1 gem on Saturday was exactly what the struggling Angels needed as the California-native scattered six hits over six innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

Wilson (2-0), who signed a five-year, $77.5-million offer, gave up a run in the fifth on Robinson Cano’s one-out single.

Pujols showed signs he’s about to unleash his full offensive arsenal. In the first inning, Howie Kendrick singled with one out, and Pujols lined a hit to left. Each was left on base when Kendrys Morales and Torii Hunter both fanned.

Two innings later, Kendrick (three hits with three RBIs) singled, and Pujols drove him home with a run-scoring double that made it 3-0.

Pujols had one hit in four at-bats during Friday’s 5-0 whitewash. This game will be remembered for Rodriguez’s 630th career home run that tied him with former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth place all-time.

A-Rod’s drive off Ervin Santana came in the third inning and expanded the Yankees’ advantage to 4-0.

Santana (0-2) struck out five and walked three in six innings, while surrendering six hits and five runs (earned).

New York jumped out 3-0 on Swisher’s bases-clearing double in the first, and Granderson’s solo rocket to right in the fifth made it 5-0.

One-time Dodger hurler Hiroki Kuroda (1-1) struck out six with two walks, allowed five hits and no runs across eight innings for the Yankees.

Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at richsports5@sbcglobal.net.

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