WASHINGTON -- It's early enough for sample sizes to be very, very deceiving, but Ernesto Frieri's home run rate has more than tripled.
Nats shortstop Ian Desmond led off the ninth inning on Monday night with a homer to left-center field -- a 462-foot blast that was the second longest in Nationals Park history -- that went for Frieri's fourth home run allowed in 8 1/3 innings. His home-runs-per-nine-innings rate is now 4.32, after being a relatively high 1.32 from 2012-13 (the Major League average was 0.99 in that span).
But Angels manager Mike Scioscia sees a silver lining.
"I think it's pretty clear with Ernie that the balls that have been hit out of the park have been mistakes," Scioscia said. "It's not like he's making good pitches and they're hitting home runs.
"If they're hitting good pitches, and they're hitting them out of the park, and it's where you're trying to go with pitches, I think you have a lot more work to do than if it's a matter of you making a few more mistakes than you're used to, and they haven't missed them."
The ball Desmond hit out on Monday was an 0-1 fastball that was supposed to be low and away but ran middle-in. The one Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak hit out on April 2 was an 0-2 fastball that wasn't quite high enough. The one Corey Hart followed up with immediately thereafter was a 3-2, chest-high fastball -- a pitch that was supposed to be low and away. And the one A's catcher John Jaso crushed to win the game on April 14 was a 1-2 fastball that was grooved right down the middle.
Yes, Frieri (5.40 ERA, 2-for-3 in saves) has missed his location with all four of the homers. But they've all come on his go-to fastball, a pitch hitters were supposed to have a harder time squaring up now that he's added a changeup and slider.
"I think some things in a pitcher's history are cyclical, and I think Ernie has gone through some stretches before that this has happened," Scioscia said. "But I think he's good at making some adjustments, and he definitely did last night to get some key outs after the home run to lead off the ninth."
Healthy Pujols again flashing leather at first
WASHINGTON -- Albert Pujols said it late Monday night, after the 4-2 victory his defense helped make possible, as if he has to remind people every so often these days.
"I'm a two-time Gold Glover."
Pujols showed that in the opener of a three-game series, when he barehanded a slow roller by Anthony Rendon to record an out at home and help Garrett Richards get through a stressful fourth inning with only one run across. He showed it on April 15, intercepting a throw home from Kole Calhoun to tag Eric Sogard out as he rounded first base. He showed it on April 14, sprawling to his right to start a key 3-6-3 double play and maintain a one-run lead in the eighth inning.
Now that his left foot is no longer stricken by plantar fasciitis, allowing Pujols to start 17 of the Angels' 20 games at first base, he gets to show it a lot more often.
"There's no doubt," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "that where his health is right now and how his lower half feels, that he's playing first base at the Gold Glove caliber that you would expect."
Pujols gives all the credit for his defense to longtime Cardinals infield coach Jose Oquendo, who, among other things, taught him "to separate my at-bats from my defense."
"And every time I put on that glove, if I'm 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, I'm going to make sure that the other goes 0-for, too," Pujols said. "I separated that early in my career, and I take a lot of pride in that, because I work hard on my defense. I don't take anything for granted."
• Angels third baseman David Freese, batting .140/.194/.193 through his first 15 games, was back in the lineup Tuesday, after getting a day off in Monday's series opener. Freese, who began the season batting cleanup against lefties, batted seventh for the second time in his last four starts.
• J.B. Shuck led the Angels with seven outfield assists as a rookie last season, and recorded two through his first 10 games this year. On Monday, Shuck cut off a base hit by Jose Lobaton in the left-center-field gap and fired a strike to second baseman Howie Kendrick to gun down the Nationals' catcher.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.