It looked like Sunday might be one of those breakout games for the struggling Angels offense when Albert Pujols, mired in a career-worst 0-for-26 slump, crushed a two-run home run in a three-run first inning that wiped out most of a four-run deficit.
Then Wade Miley hit the mute button on those bats, the crafty left-hander blanking the Angels on two hits over the next six innings to lead the Seattle Mariners to a 9-4 victory in Angel Stadium.
Kyle Seager, Leonys Martin and Seth Smith hit homers for Seattle, the first two off Angels starter Matt Shoemaker, who was knocked out in the fourth. The Angels managed six hits, committed three errors and were held to four runs or fewer for the 16th time in 19 games this season.
“We have to score more runs, but we also have to keep them from scoring,” Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “We made a lot of errors. It was a pretty bad game all around.”
Not for Pujols, who drove a 448-foot homer over the left-center-field wall in the first, singled sharply to right in the third, lined out to center in the sixth and hit a hard grounder to second in the ninth.
“Albert hit four rockets, and that’s great to see,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “I know he was more comfortable in the box. Hopefully, it’s a sign of good things.”
The homer was the 563rd of Pujols’ career, tying him with Reggie Jackson for 13th place on the all-time list. He raised his average from .132 to .153.
Pujols entered Sunday with a 7.1% line-drive percentage, according to Fangraphs, a sharp decline from his career rate of 18.8%, but he did not put too much stock in the way the ball came off his bat Sunday.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Pujols, 36, said. “I’ve been doing that for 16 years, since I was probably 8 years old hitting the ball hard.”
At the very least, it could curb some of the questions about whether Pujols should be dropped out of the cleanup spot. Scioscia said before the game that “there’s no doubt Albert’s bat speed and power are there,” and that he was not considering a lineup switch.
“Sometimes when [the hits] come, they come in bunches,” Pujols said. “When you struggle, you just struggle. The main thing is to stay positive all the time. I’ve been in this situation before. I know how to get out of it — don’t force anything, don’t press, clear my mind and do the things I have to do.”
Unlike Pujols, Shoemaker had what he called “one of those really bad days.” The right-hander gave up three hits, including a three-run homer to Seager, and walked two in a four-run, 32-pitch first.
The Angels answered with three in the bottom of the first, which included Geovany Soto’s run-scoring double, but Shoemaker gave up three in the fourth, two when Martin vaporized a changeup, sending a liner with an exit velocity of 109 mph over the right-field wall for a two-run homer.
“Pitches were up, and I was behind in the count again,” said Shoemaker, who fell to 1-3 with a 6.87 earned-run average. “I walked too many guys. You may be the best pitcher, but if you’re pitching in hitter’s counts, they’re a lot more comfortable.”
Shoemaker was rocked for six runs in three innings of his first start against Texas on April 8 but looked sharp in his next two games, allowing two runs in 12 1/3 innings to Oakland and the Chicago White Sox.
“It really comes down to execution,” Shoemaker said. “If you execute pitches where you want, how you want, with good movement, you’re going to be really successful.”