Unfortunately for the Mariners, it appears as if Albert Pujols is starting to find his stroke for the Angels.
Seattle also appears to be catching Ervin Santana at the wrong time, as the right-hander looks for a third straight victory tonight in the second contest of a four-game series.
Santana is 2-0 in three starts since opening the season with six straight defeats, though the Angels were shut out five times over that slide. Santana, though, did pitch to a 7.23 earned run average over his first four outings, but has gone at least six innings and has a 2.25 ERA with 29 strikeouts in his last five starts.
The 29-year-old did not factor into the decision of Sunday's outing in San Diego, giving up two runs over six innings of an eventual 3-2 loss. That left him 2-6 with a 4.22 ERA on the season.
Santana is 11-6 with a 3.56 ERA in 25 career starts versus the Mariners, including a 2-2 mark and 2.34 ERA in five encounters a season ago.
It's safe to say that the Angels expected more from Pujols when they signed him to a 10-year, $240 million deal this past offseason, with the former National League MVP hitting just .225 with five homers and 22 RBI in 45 games.
Pujols, though, is batting .308 over his last 13 games with four homers and 11 RBI. He went 3-for-4 in Thursday's 3-0 victory over the Mariners, including the 450th homer of his career. The 32-year-old became the fourth-youngest player to reach the mark, behind Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.
Dan Haren made sure Pujols' big day at the plate didn't go to waste, throwing the sixth shutout and 16th complete game of his career. It was a four-hitter that featured a career-high 14 strikeouts, including the 1,500th of his career and Haren retired 15 straight after giving up a leadoff single to begin the first inning.
"I think it was obvious tonight that my stuff was better and just feeling better in general," said Haren, who snapped a personal four-game losing streak. "I'm happy to win a game. I forgot what it felt like, but also the team won a couple in a row. Hopefully, we get going."
The Angels won their third straight game and moved a half-game ahead of the Mariners for third place in the AL West.
Jason Vargas gave up three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts over seven innings of work for the Mariners, who had won five of six coming into the game. Ichiro Suzuki's double in the seventh was the lone extra-base hit of the game for Seattle, which couldn't solve Haren.
"A guy goes out there and strikes out as many as he does and doesn't walk anybody, that should tell you all you need to know right there," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge of Haren. "Each one of our guys has got to look at their at bats. It wasn't the umpire. A lot of it had to do with Haren, but a lot of it had to with us, too."
Getting the call tonight for the M's will be Blake Beavan, who snapped a five- start winless drought (0-3) with a win at Colorado on Sunday. The right-hander gave up two runs over five innings and struck out a career-high seven batters despite not having his best stuff according to Wedge.
"He battled," Seattle's skipper said. "He didn't have his best stuff and definitely didn't have his fastball. He didn't give in, continued to mix his pitches and got us into the sixth inning."
Beavan, 23, moved to 2-4 with a 4.46 ERA in eight starts this season and is 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA in three career meetings with the Angels.
The Angels won 12 of 19 versus the Mariners last season, though went 4-5 in Seattle. They have won 31 of the last 42 encounters overall.