(SportsNetwork.com) - With the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim expected to be without Josh Hamilton for the next 4-to-6 weeks, Albert Pujols homering in back-to-back games had to be an encouraging sign.
Pujols and the Angels take aim at their first home victory of the season on Friday night when they begin a three-game interleague set against the New York Mets.
Hamilton suffered a thumb injury on Tuesday after sliding head first into first base and surgery will keep him out for at least a month. The outfielder was off to a good start, having hit .444 with a pair of homers and six RBI in eight games.
The Angels announced Hamilton's injury prior to Wednesday's finale of a quick two-game set with the Seattle Mariners, and Los Angeles took the finale, 2-0 behind Pujols' two-run homer in the third inning and seven outstanding innings by Garrett Richards.
Richards struck out six batters over his outing, issuing three walks and yielding Seattle's only hit on an Abraham Almonte single in the third inning.
"I'm not happy about the walks but that's something that I'm going to continue to work on," Richards said. "I'm going to focus on filling up the zone early on more effectively."
With Richards done after 104 pitches, reliever Joe Smith struck out two in a perfect eighth before Ernesto Frieri worked around a one-out walk in the ninth to record his first save of the season.
The Angels were swept in three games at home by the Mariners to begin the season, but rebounded with a 4-2 road trip.
The Angels are hoping for another dominating outing tonight from 22-year-old Tyler Skaggs, who was outstanding in his debut with the club last Saturday.
Skaggs went 3-6 over 13 starts in two seasons with Arizona before getting acquired by Los Angeles this past offseason in the three-team deal that sent slugger Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks.
Skaggs faced the Astros last weekend and won a 5-1 decision, with the only run he yielded coming unearned. The lefty scattered four hits and a walk while striking out five over eight innings.
"Just small changes I've made that will help me throw more strikes," said Skaggs. "I think all of that clicked today and hopefully I'll continue to grow."
Despite his previous stint in Arizona, Skaggs will be facing the Mets for the first time.
New York's Dillon Gee takes aim at his first decision of 2014 in his third start.
The Mets have split Gee's first two outings, with the right-hander getting roughed up for four runs on four hits and a pair of walks over 6 2/3 innings versus Washington on March 31. That was a 9-7 setback for New York.
Gee was much better this past Saturday versus Cincinnati, charged with three runs on six hits and a walk in 7 1/3 frames of work. He was in line for the victory until giving up a two-run homer to Brandon Phillips in the eight inning, but New York managed the 6-3 victory on Ike Davis' walk-off grand slam.
The 27-year-old Gee has never before faced the Angels.
The Mets also opened the season by getting swept at home, in three games by Washington, before putting together a 4-2 run. They claimed back-to-back series versus the Reds and Atlanta Braves, besting the defending NL East champions 6-4 in Thursday's rubber match.
Eric Young Jr. keyed the offense with three hits, three stolen bases and four runs scored, while Daniel Murphy had three hits and drove in three runs.
"It was huge, especially winning the series against the defending NL East champs," said Young.
Starter Jenrry Mejia struck out seven but allowed four runs on six hits and four walks over five frames. However, three New York relievers held Atlanta to just a hit over the final four innings. That included Jose Valverde, who worked the ninth inning for his second save of the campaign.
The Mets and Angels are meeting for the first time since the 2011 season, when Los Angeles took two of three in New York.
These clubs are meeting in Anaheim for the first time since 2008.