Albert Pujols reached base twice, wheeled around the bases to score two runs and even hit a double — but that wasn’t enough to propel the Angels in a 6-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on Monday night.
With the Angels trailing by a run, reliever Hansel Robles, a right-hander who can hit triple digits on the radar gun, allowed the Mariners to put the game out of reach in the seventh inning. He walked the first batter he faced, then hung a slider to Jay Bruce, who crushed it 426 feet into the mostly empty right-field seats for two runs of insurance.
That was more than enough against the Angels, whose bats sputtered in losing four of their first five games. In all four defeats, they’ve scored three or fewer runs. They haven’t held a lead in any of them.
“It can be tough on pitchers if you are constantly trying to hold a team,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “So it would be nice to jump on a team early from an offensive standpoint and let their pitching staff try to hold us. We want to add on and let them keep us from adding on. That’ll happen. I just hope it happens tomorrow.”
Unlike in years past, Mike Trout and onetime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez did not engage in an epic battle. There was just Trout standing near home plate, shaking his left hand and being checked on by the Angels’ trainer after Hernandez drilled him with a 91-mph fastball.
Trout, who stayed in for the rest of the game, didn’t come around to score. Nor did he score when he reached first and advanced to second on a throwing error by third baseman Ryon Healy.
Hernandez, despite pitching with diminished stuff, got the win after allowing three runs (only one earned, as the Mariners committed four errors behind him) and seven hits with four strikeouts over 5-1/3 innings.
“He mixed his pitches really well today,” said first baseman Justin Bour, who was hitless in four at-bats. “Changeup, curveball, he did a good job to keep us off it.”
Trout, who entered the game batting .373 with 20 RBIs and a 1.178 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against Hernandez, was mostly neutralized, held to 0 for 2 with an intentional walk.
That made Pujols’ night stand out even more, as the Angels got no hits from the top of the order. The bottom four hitters, however, reached base on singles.
While he was at it, Pujols tied Honus Wagner for ninth place on the all-time doubles list with 640 and tied Charlie Gehringer for 21st on the all-time runs list with 1,775.
The Angels stayed in the game until Robles’ rough inning by playing smartly in the field. A heads-up play from second baseman Tommy La Stella prevented the Mariners from cashing in a leadoff walk issued to Tim Beckham by reliever Justin Anderson in the sixth inning. When Anderson induced a popup from Healy one batter later, La Stella stationed himself under it in the infield and forced Beckham to retreat to first base. But La Stella allowed the ball to drop, then threw out Beckham when Healy also arrived at first.
La Stella’s choice paid immediate dividends: Healy, a slower runner than Beckham, made it only to third base when Dee Gordon, the next batter, ripped a single to right field.
Asked if the Angels had practiced La Stella’s play, Ausmus smiled and said, “He lost it in the sun. That’s what I’m sticking with. … We got lucky there.”
“He called it and was very convincing that he wanted it,” said Bour, who was holding the bag at first at the time. “So I figured he was going to catch it. But once he dropped it, I realized what was going on.”
The setup made it easier for reliever Ty Buttrey, a rookie who late last year impressed the Angels with his hard fastball down the stretch, to escape the one-out jam. After Gordon stole second base, Buttrey struck out both batters he faced on 11 pitches.
Angels right-hander Chris Stratton, acquired from San Francisco two days before the season to fill the hole in the rotation created by Andrew Heaney’s absence, threw 4-1/3 innings and was charged four earned runs in his debut. He struggled in the first inning, allowing the first three batters to reach base and then watching them all score as he yielded back-to-back hits with two outs.
But he settled in long enough to retire 10 of 12 batters at one point before relinquishing the mound to Anderson, who stranded the two runners Stratton left him and one of his own to end the Mariners’ threat in the fifth.
“That was outstanding that he was able to compose himself,” Ausmus said of Stratton. “We like him. There’s a reason we acquired him. Outside of the first inning, he pitched well. We expect him to pitch well moving forward.”