It's a numbers game for Haren and Pujols

It's a numbers game for Haren and Pujols

It's a numbers game for Haren and Pujols
SEATTLE -- Trying to avoid losing five straight games for the first time in his career, all Dan Haren needed Thursday night was one swing of the bat by Albert Pujols.

Pujols hit a first-inning home run -- fifth of the season and 450th of his career -- and Haren took care of the rest for the Angels, who knocked off the Mariners, 3-0, at Safeco Field in the opener of a four-game set.

Haren threw a four-hitter with a career-best 14 strikeouts for the sixth shutout and 16th complete game of his career. He went to work after allowing a leadoff single to Dustin Ackley. Keeping batters off balance with effectiveness of all of his pitches, the right-hander set down the next 15 batters in order.

He surpassed 1,500 strikeouts for his career when he fanned Michael Saunders in the eighth. For the second time this season, Haren did not allow a walk. It was the most strikeouts by an Angels pitcher without a walk since Frank Tanana recorded 17 on June 21, 1975, against Texas.

"I'll tell you, Dan just had great stuff tonight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he's very comfortable out there. I think he's physically feeling much better. Just couldn't have pitched a better ballgame -- I think just the way he was ahead of hitters and making pitches, just pounding the zone all night."

The Mariners threatened to score in the seventh as Ichiro Suzuki led off with a double and moved to third on a grounder. But Haren fanned the next two batters to end the threat.

The win for Haren snaps a four-game losing streak for the veteran that saw his ERA balloon to 4.41 at one point. Haren is now 5-2 all-time at Safeco in 10 starts.

"He pitched a good ballgame, but we didn't make any adjustments," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He was doing the same thing in the ninth inning he was doing in the first inning. That's the red flag. You can't just keep going up there doing the same thing and expect different results."

"My fastball was better than it's been in a few starts, that's for sure," Haren said. "I stayed with what was working and they were going to have to adjust to me."

Pujols had a big night at the plate, collecting three hits and accounting for each of the three runs. He did the big damage early, smashing a 3-1 pitch well over the wall in left field in the first for a two-run shot.

The home run was the 450th of his career, making him the fourth youngest to reach the milestone behind Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jimmie Foxx. Pujols is now alone in 35th place for all-time home runs, two behind Carl Yastrzemski.

"This game comes and goes," Pujols said. "I think the main thing is to be positive all the time and to continue to make adjustments. Tomorrow's a new day; you have to continue to try to be consistent. Whether we try or not, most of the time we can't, we can't be consistent in this game, that's just the way it is."

The Angels added to their lead in the sixth when Pujols singled, stole second base and came home on a single by Kendrys Morales, pushing the lead to 3-0. Pujols also singled in the fourth to make it his third three-hit game of the season, his first since May 15.

"Albert definitely set the tone tonight with everything he was doing," Scioscia said. "That stolen base, obviously drove the ball, good at-bats all night. We didn't get much else than what Albert created, so it was a good night for him to get comfortable."

Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @jlieb24 This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.