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Albret Pujols, C.J. Cron homers leads Los Angeles Angels over Seattle Mariners

By Joseph D'Hippolito, The Sports Xchange
Albret Pujols, C.J. Cron homers leads Los Angeles Angels over Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, left, and first baseman Albert Pujols. UPI/Lori Shepler. | License Photo

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- With the major league's divisional races virtually settled, the Los Angeles Angels are providing late drama in their quest for a playoff spot.

Designated hitter Albert Pujols and first baseman C.J Cron each hit a two-run home run to lead the Angels to an 8-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night in front of 38,355 at Angel Stadium.

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The Angels used their sixth victory in eight games to move within half a game of the Houston Astros, who hold the American League's second wild-card spot, while remaining five games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the American League West with nine to play.

"We're neck and neck," Los Angeles center fielder Mike Trout said regarding the Astros. "We have a good chance but we've got to win games. That's the bottom line."

The Angels' late surge corresponds to the return of such key players as third baseman David Freese, second baseman Johnny Giavotella and infielder Taylor Featherston from the disabled list this month.

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"It's good getting our full team back," Trout said. "When we were going good at the All-Star break, we had our full squad."

Pujols registered his 37th home run of the season and the 557th of his career in the bottom of the first inning. Cron added his 15th in the bottom of the seventh. Giavotella added two RBIs and Trout led the Angels' 14-hit attack with three hits.

Right-hander Garrett Richards (15-11) conceded only two hits and two walks after the second inning to earn his second consecutive win. Richards scattered five hits, allowed three runs, walked four and struck out eight in seven innings.

First baseman Logan Morrison, third baseman Kyle Seager and center fielder Brad Miller each had two of the Mariners' nine hits, with Morrison driving in two runs. Designated hitter Nelson Cruz added his 43rd home run.

Seattle, trailing 8-3, scored a run in the top of the eighth inning and loaded the bases with two out to bring the potential tying run to the plate. Second baseman Robinson Cano singled with one out, moved to third base when left fielder Seth Smith singled and came home on Morrison's two-out single.

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The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Cruz's homer, which tied him for the major league lead with the Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis. The Angels responded in the bottom of the inning by turning five hits, including three doubles and a home run, into four runs against left-hander Vidal Nuno.

Shortstop Erick Aybar lined a leadoff double down the left-field line, and scored one out later when Trout blooped a double between Morrison and right fielder Mark Trumbo. Pujols followed with a two-run home run into the first row of the left-field bleachers beyond both bullpens.

Cron hit Nuno's next pitch off the wall in left-center field for a double, then came home when Freese lined the ensuing pitch into right field for a single.

Seattle retaliated in the top of the second by putting runners in scoring position with nobody out after narrowing the deficit to 4-3 against Richards. Smith began the inning with a walk, moved to second base when Trumbo walked and came home on Morrison's line-drive single that also sent Trumbo to third.

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Miller then bunted up the third-base line for a single that scored Trumbo. When Angels catcher Carlos Perez threw the ball down the right-field line for an error, Morrison took third and Miller reached second. But Richards then struck out catcher Steve Baron, shortstop Ketel Marte and Seager to limit the damage.

"We had him in trouble all night," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said about Richards. "I thought we had real good at-bats and got his pitch count up. We really had opportunities to take the lead. We just couldn't get the big hit to put us over the hump."

Los Angeles added single runs in the fourth and the sixth. Giavotella hit a run-scoring single in the fourth and an RBI triple in the sixth.

Nuno (1-4) had four strikeouts and yielded no walks in his 4 1/3 innings but gave up five runs and nine hits while throwing just 67 pitches.

"I'm not sure about my starter on Tuesday," McClendon said. "He may have to start and I didn't want his pitch count to get too high."

NOTES: Mariners LHP Vidal Nuno is the first graduate of Baker University, an NAIA college in Kansas, to play in the major leagues in nearly a century. RHP Zip Zabel pitched for the Chicago Cubs from 1913-15. ... Los Angeles 2B Johnny Giavotella was activated from the disabled list Friday and played his first game since Aug. 20. Giavotella had been sidelined for five weeks because of a temporary nerve disorder that causes double vision. ... The Angels have scored three runs or fewer in 80 games this season, the most in 23 years. In 1992, the Angels scored three runs or less 90 times. ... Friday marked the 51st anniversary of Dean Chance becoming the first pitcher in Angels' history to win 20 games and the 36th anniversary of the Angels winning their first division title.

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