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LAA@CHC: Angels crush five homers at Wrigley

CHICAGO -- Albert Pujols went deep, trotted around the bases, walked into the dugout, sat on the bench and watched Josh Hamilton do the very same thing.

Back-to-back homers -- something you expected to see many times when these two titans came together this offseason.

And in the fifth inning of a crisp night at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, as a rough first half for the two sluggers comes to a close, it finally happened.

"Super cool," C.J. Wilson said after pitching seven innings of one-run ball in a 13-2 win.

"Those are two guys who are critical to where we want to be," Angels manager Mike Scioscia added, "And to see those guys have such good nights in the same game -- I hope we see more of it."

Where would the Angels be if Hamilton's transition from Fort Worth to Orange County hadn't become so difficult, or if Pujols' plantar fasciitis hadn't hit him so hard? It's impossible to say, and it's very likely that the Angels -- also plagued by pitching problems, injuries and shoddy defense -- would still have an uphill climb in front of them.

For one night, though, the duo finally dominated a game together.

For one night, the blueprint showed up.

Hamilton had his first multi-homer game this season and went back-to-back with Pujols for the first time, leading an onslaught that saw the Angels put up crooked numbers in the first and fifth innings, record their most extra-base hits in 33 years (11) and notch a season-high five homers -- two from Hamilton and one each from Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Brendan Harris.

The Angels (44-46) have now won 11 of their last 14 games and can finish the first half with a winning record if they sweep the Mariners in Seattle this weekend.

"We're capable of doing that from top to bottom in our lineup," Hamilton said. "The key is doing it on a consistent basis, day in and day out. We've done that better over the last couple weeks and hopefully we can keep that going through the rest of this half."

These were the combined totals of the first and fifth for the Angels: 11 runs, 11 hits, five homers, three walks and 20 batters sent to the plate.

Mike Trout began the scoring with an RBI double -- his first of three hits -- and Hamilton hit a three-run homer two batters later. Two batters after that, Trumbo hit a solo shot to give the Angels an early 5-0 lead against Jeff Samardzija.

In the fifth, the Angels put it away. Pujols hit a two-run homer -- his second in as many days, giving him 15 on the year and 490 for his career -- and Hamilton came right back with a shot to right field that gave him 14 on the year. Harris later added a two-run shot, Wilson singled -- his second hit in 20 career at-bats -- and the Angels drew back-to-back walks against Henry Rodriguez to push across an 11th run.

"You can't really sugarcoat it too much," Samardzija said. "They kicked my [behind] today and that's the way it goes."

Hamilton had his 12-game hitting streak snapped on Tuesday, but is batting .346 over his last 14 games (18-for-52) to raise his batting average by 23 points, from .207 to .229.

He recalled getting some useful advice from a close friend recently: "Enjoy it while it lasts, because you can't play it forever. Don't be worried about how things are going, or get frustrated and let it compile and build. Just brush it off and go out there and have fun, do things I've done my entire life playing the game."

Pujols, playing first base on consecutive days for the first time since June 20-21, entered the series on a 7-for-43 stretch, but got three hits, drew three walks, hit two homers and drove in five runs in the two-game series against the Cubs, putting his slash line at .252/.329/.435 for the season.

The Angels still find themselves nine games back of the first-place A's in the American League West and seven back of the Rays for the second Wild Card spot, with four teams to jump.

If Pujols and Hamilton finally get hot at the same time, though, a lot is possible.

"We know what we can do," Pujols said. "We prepare ourselves every day, we want to produce every day. This game is going to give you some, it's going to take some from you. You just need to continue to do your thing and not try to think too much about whether you're struggling or whether you're having success.

"We're in the middle of our lineup and our job is to produce. Sometimes, you're going to struggle more than you produce. And that's the way it is."

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