SEATTLE — Albert Pujols had three hits, including the 450th home run of his career Dan Haren struck out a career-high 14 in tossing his sixth career complete-game shutout, and the Los Angeles Angels won their third straight with a 3-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.
The Angels and Mariners met for the first of 19 games this season and Pujols, a newcomer to the A.L. West rivalry, made his presence known immediately. He lined a two-run shot off Seattle starter Jason Vargas (5-4) with one-out in the top of the first, and added line-drive singles in the fourth and sixth innings. It was just his third three-hit game this season.
The three runs were plenty for Haren (2-5), who tossed the 16th complete game of his career. He allowed only four hits and one Seattle baserunner to reach third base.
Haren matched his career high of 12 strikeouts when he got Michael Saunders to end the eighth inning. He was given the chance at the complete-game despite starting the ninth at 110 pitches, but struck out Alex Liddi for the fourth time, got Ichiro Suzuki swinging, and closed it out by getting Kyle Seager to groundout.
The 32-year-old Pujols is the fourth-youngest player in baseball history to reach 450 homers, behind Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Jimmie Foxx. Lamented for his lack of power in his first two months with the Angels, Pujols displayed plenty of pop on the 3-1 pitch from Vargas, lining it off the facade of the second deck in left field with a thud for his fifth homer of the season and second in three games.
Pujols also stole a base and made a heads up play in the fourth inning, when Ichiro lost track of the number of outs and Pujols advanced to third after Ichiro caught the second out of the inning. He was stranded there when Erick Aybar popped out to end the inning. Pujols stole second and scored on Kendrys Morales’ RBI single to left field in the sixth.
While Pujols continued to show signs of his bat waking up, Haren snapped a four-game losing streak with one of the finest outings of his career.
Haren picked up his 11th career win against Seattle and made it look easy for most of the night as Seattle failed to get a base runner between the second and sixth innings.
Saunders led off the sixth with an infield single. That ended a streak of 15 in a row set down by Haren and was Seattle’s first hit since Dustin Ackley led off the bottom of the first with a single that slipped under Howie Kendrick’s glove. Saunders ended up at second after a stolen base, but Haren got a pop up from Ackley and struck out Liddi to end Seattle’s first scoring threat.
Ichiro led off the seventh with a double and advanced to third on an infield groundout, but was stranded when Haren got Jesus Montero waving at a pitch off the plate and froze Mike Carp on a 3-2 pitch for his 11th strikeout.
It was the 13th 10-strikeout game of Haren’s career and topped his previous career high of 12 accomplished twice, the last time coming in 2008.
Vargas was nearly as good as Haren, sans giving up the homer to Pujols. Vargas scattered seven hits and struck out six in seven innings. Vargas has pitched at least six innings in 10 of his 11 starts this season.