SEATTLE – The broken record of flailing swings, empty at-bats and strikeouts piling up against Los Angeles starter Dan Haren irritated Seattle manager Eric Wedge to no end.
And he wasn't willing to accept the Mariners mostly youthful inexperience on this night as an excuse.
"Haren is a veteran pitcher and we didn't make him make any adjustments. He just kept doing the same thing throughout the course of the game. That just can't happen," Wedge said. "We've got a lot of young ballplayers, but they are far enough along they've got to do better than that."
Haren was brilliant tossing a four-hitter and striking out a career-high 14, and Alberto Pujols had three hits, including his 450th career homer, in the Angels 3-0 win over the Mariners on Thursday night.
The Angels and Mariners met for the first of 19 games this season and Pujols, a newcomer to the AL 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.
"I faced him in the National League so maybe he felt comfortable seeing somebody familiar," Vargas quipped. "But he hit some good pitches and he hit a bad pitch. Everybody knows what he is capable of, no matter what his batting average is or what he's doing."
And those three runs proved to be plenty for Haren (2-5), who tossed the sixth shutout and 16th complete game of his career. He allowed only one Seattle baserunner to reach third base. Haren matched his career-high of 12 strikeouts when he got Michael Saunders looking 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 Mariners efforts at the plate were feeble. Only five putouts were made by Angels outfielders, and Suzuki's double leading off the seventh was the hardest hit ball.
"Look at how he was getting us out, zooming through the game, it was all stuff off the plate away, lunging, check-swing stuff," Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan said.
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 Suzuki lost track of the number of outs and Pujols advanced to third after Suzuki 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.
"Today I swung the bat pretty well, but tomorrow is a new day, you have to try to be consistent," Pujols said.
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. 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.
Suzuki 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.
"I stayed with what was working and they were going to have to adjust to me," Haren said.
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.
Notes: Haren picked up his 1,500th career strikeout when he got Saunders looking in the eighth inning. ... It was the league-leading seventh shutout this season for the Angels. ... Seattle activated C Miguel Olivo from the 15-day DL and optioned OF Casper Wells to Triple-A Tacoma. Olivo was 0-for-3 in his return to the Mariners lineup.