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PIT@LAA: Pujols clobbers solo homer off Cole

The Angels, with an all-or-nothing offense that has either exploded or been silenced over the last week, will be without Josh Hamilton as they finish a three-game series with the Pirates on Sunday.

A few days down for the slugger, who had a cortisone shot in his injured right wrist, may not be the worst thing. He's hitting .171 in June and .207 on the season.

Cue Albert Pujols.

Pujols is battling painful plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but has been playing as good as anyone with two good feet. The three-time National League MVP is 16-for-40 over his last 10 games. He's hit three homers and driven in 10 runs.

"What he has right now is probably more chronic than anything," said manager Mike Scioscia. "So it's not like he's going to wake up tomorrow and feel great, but I think the times that he does DH, helps keep that health elevated so he is comfortable in the batter's box.

"I think he's comfortable. ... It's not like he's feeling great now, he's finding a way to work with it."

The Angels could also benefit from production of Joe Blanton, who signed as a free agent in the offseason and struggled until his last start.

Blanton, 1-10 with a 5.62 ERA, held the Mariners to just two runs over 6 2/3 innings. He also struck out 11 for the second time in three starts, season highs.

Pitching with 10 losses on your record may not feel great, but Blanton is staying positive.

"You just go out and pitch," he said. "You try to throw the best you can every time, you try to keep it close. As a starter, the runs are out of your hands. At the end of the day, you try to keep it right there so the lineup, with a big swing or two can win the ballgame. That's the goal when you go out there for a start."

The Pirates will get their third look at Charlie Morton, post-Tommy John surgery.

Morton, who allowed two earned runs in five innings in his season debut and turned in 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Cincinnati his last time out, has thrown harder than he did before his surgery. He now reaches 95 mph.

"I didn't play baseball," he said. "I threw, but I wasn't out there pitching competitively for a year. That's one of the things, guys that bounce back better, they'll tell you it's rest and strengthening. We're in there a lot doing a lot of strength work. It doesn't necessarily surprise me."

Morton will be pitching at the site of his big league debut -- on June 14, 2008, with the Braves -- when he led a 9-4 victory at Angel Stadium.

Angels: Shuck in luck
J.B. Shuck had no idea how much playing time he'd get with the Angels this season. Saturday marked his 50th game of 2013.

Shuck filled in for Peter Bourjos while the center fielder was on the disabled list, and filled in for Hamilton in right on Saturday.

The left-handed hitter, who turned 26 this week, is batting .281.

"Being a fourth or fifth outfielder, you know that when somebody goes down you are going to be asked to play," he said, "so you've got to be ready for it."

Pirates: Alvarez in bloom
Pedro Alvarez homered in his third straight game Saturday. With 68 career home runs, he's one shy of tying Bobby Bonilla for third place on the all-time list by Pirates third baseman. Richie Hebner has the record with 120.

Alvarez, 26, has 18 homers this season, 16 against right-handed pitching.

"Pedro has the ability to shrink any park we play in," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The ability to drive in runs and be a run producer is quite evident. We knew it was a special talent when we drafted him. You see it play out throughout the season from time to time."

Worth noting
• In 25 combined at-bats against the Pirates' Garrett Jones and Alvarez, Blanton has served up five homers.

• The Pirates have used Jones as their designated hitter during Interleague Play. He is 12-for-40 in his career as a DH.

• The Angels' 78-41 record in Interleague Play since 2007 is the best in the Majors. Comments