The Los Angeles Angels showed they have enough power to make up for the absence of Albert Pujols, but they surely like knowing they don't have to wait long to get him back.
Pujols could return to the lineup Friday night when the Angels open a three-game home series against the Tampa Bay Rays.Los Angeles begins the weekend five games behind first-place Texas in the AL West but tied for one of the wild-card spots. After winning two of three against the Rangers last weekend, the Angels (54-45) did the same to Kansas City this week, including an 11-6 victory Wednesday.Jered Weaver struck out eight in five innings for his 13th win and Torii Hunter homered among his season high-tying four hits. He drove in three runs while Mike Trout and Bobby Wilson also went deep.Trout is hitting .413 in July with eight homers and nine stolen bases in 21 games. Hunter has batted .359 with nine RBIs and nine runs scored over the last nine games while hitting second behind Trout, the AL leader with 31 steals and a .356 average."I've been seeing a lot of fastballs just because they don't want Trout to steal, and they want to be quick to the plate," Hunter told the Angels' official website. "His speed changed the game."Pujols, batting .359 with four homers and nine RBIs over his last 10 games, was held out of the lineup after being hit by a pitch on the elbow Tuesday. X-rays were negative, and after a day off Thursday, he could return to start this series.While their offense is rolling, the Angels could use more consistency from the rotation, particularly Dan Haren (7-8, 4.76).He was solid in his return from the disabled list Sunday, giving up two runs and three hits in six innings of a 7-4 win over Texas. He allowed at least five runs in each of his previous four outings."Going to sleep last night and all this morning, I definitely had a lot of butterflies," Haren said. "It's been a while, and I just wanted to go out there and help the team."Haren has pitched well against the Rays, going 6-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts. Ben Zobrist is 2 for 21 against him and Matt Joyce is 0 for 10.B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena have combined for seven home runs off Haren, but Upton has only one homer in his past 11 games and Pena has one in his last 17.The Rays have been among the AL's lowest-scoring teams since the All-Star break at 3.7 runs per game, but they trail the Angels by 2 1/2 games in the wild-card race.Tampa Bay (51-45) is coming off its first series win since the break, taking two of three at Baltimore despite losing the finale 6-2 on Thursday."It was their day today, it was not our day," manager Joe Maddon said. "However, if for the rest of the season whenever we play a team three games and we win two of them, I'm very, very happy."Tampa Bay will hand the ball to Alex Cobb (4-7, 5.05), who has gone a combined 5 1/3 innings over his last two starts and lost both.Cobb gave up two runs in two innings of a 2-1 loss to Seattle last Saturday, leaving after taking Ichiro Suzuki's grounder off his right lower leg.The right-hander faced the Angels twice last season and won his lone start in Anaheim, yielding one run in 6 1/3 innings of a 4-1 victory.The Rays have won six straight over the Angels, sweeping them at home in April.