Alberto, Albert lead Angels to fifth straight win

Alberto, Albert lead Angels to fifth straight win

Alberto, Albert lead Angels to fifth straight win
SEATTLE -- The Angels are doing all the things now that they couldn't do earlier.

For proof, look no further than Saturday's 5-3 win over the Mariners.

Albert Pujols, for one, is homering. He hit his third in as many days and the sixth in his last 11 games -- the latest off Felix Hernandez -- after mustering just one through the first 36 contests.

The offense is getting the Angels back into games. One day after using a three-run ninth inning to get the club's first win in the 20 times it has trailed after seven, Alberto Callaspo launched a pinch-hit grand slam that gave the Angels a lead one half-inning after they gave one up.

The bullpen is piling up zeros. They held the Mariners scoreless through the last three frames at Safeco Field, giving Jerome Williams the win and moving the relief corps' ERA to 0.72 over a current 37 1/3-inning stretch, which comes shortly after having one of the highest bullpen ERAs in baseball.

And, simply put, the team is winning. The Angels' latest victory extended their season-high winning streak to five, moved them to just two games below .500 (the fewest since April 16) and put them in second place in the American League West for the first time since the first week of the season.

"Sooner or later," Pujols said, "we knew that we were going to turn it around."

The starting rotation has set the tone, now notching 24 quality starts in the last 30 games while representing the one constant of the season. Over the last couple weeks, the bullpen has made a drastic turnaround, going from a daily headache to a consistent force.

And now, little by little, the offense is starting to show signs of life, coming from behind on back-to-back days and finally getting production from their No. 3 hitter.

"We know what kind of ballclub we have, and we just try to go out there and try to win," Pujols added. "It didn't happen too many times in April, but here we go."

The Angels got on the board Saturday the same way they got on the board Friday -- with a Pujols homer, which came on a 2-1 curveball that the Angels' first baseman stayed back on and belted out to left-center field for a solo shot in the fourth.

"He was filthy," said Pujols, who had only faced Hernandez during the 2009 All-Star Game. "He just left a breaking ball up and obviously I put my best swing of the day [on it]."

The homer gave him 452 for his career, tying him with Carl Yastrzemski for 34th on the all-time list, and marked the 20th time in his career that he's homered in three consecutive games.

More importantly, it was the continuation of what appears to be a turnaround in the batter's box.

Pujols, who also laced a double and is batting .232, has 22 RBIs in 24 May games (after just four in 23 April games). Since May 8, when his batting average sat at .190, he has hit .304 (21-for-69) with hits in 15 of 17 games.

"It's part of the game," Pujols said of finally seeing results. "I'm going to try to continue to do my best to help this ballclub win. That's my goal every time I come to the ballpark."

The Mariners came back against Williams in the bottom of the fifth, a 25-pitch inning that saw Erick Aybar make an ill-timed throw to third base after fielding a grounder and Mike Carp and Dustin Ackley deliver RBI singles to make it a 2-1 game.

But in the top of the sixth, the Angels got the first three runners on -- with an infield single by Mark Trumbo, a line-drive single by Howie Kendrick and a bunt single by Aybar -- and two batters later, Callaspo turned an 0-1 fastball from Hernandez into a grand slam that sailed over the right-field fence.

"That pitch I threw to Callaspo, that's a great pitch," Hernandez said. "He's trying to hit a popup and just find that ball right there and hit it out of the ballpark."

For the Angels, it was their first grand slam of the season and first of the pinch-hit variety since Shane Halter in 2004. For Callaspo, who was pinch-hitting for catcher Bobby Wilson, it was his second career grand slam and the continuation of a pretty big week in the batter's box -- he also drove in the winning runs in Wednesday's 11-inning victory over the A's and drew a key walk in Friday's ninth-inning comeback.

"It felt really good," Callaspo said of his grand slam. "I was thinking, 'If that ball doesn't go, I'll at least get a sacrifice [fly] or something.' I was just trying to bring in a run."

Williams left after giving up three runs (including a Justin Smoak solo homer) in six innings, moving his ERA to 3.81. Jordan Walden, Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri took it from there, putting Williams' record at 5-2 and the Angels' at 23-25.

As Williams said, "We're clicking."

"Any time you get on a roll and you start playing closer to your capabilities, you're going to feel better about what's going on," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think guys are gaining confidence every time you go up there and you put a 'W' on the board."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.