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Albert Pujols helps fuel Angels' win over Dodgers

First baseman walks with the bases loaded and makes a strong play to lead the Angels to 12-3.

April 02, 2012|By Lance Pugmire

Albert Pujols officially arrived in Anaheim on Monday, inspiring warm ovations from Angels fans who aspire to enjoy a season of the power displays and a championship the slugger has proven he can produce.

"There's no doubt our fans are excited about how our team's looking," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We understand the expectations, and the tremendous amount of work it takes to get there.

"It'll take more than Albert, but Albert's obviously the focal point. … Now, we have the tools to better meet those expectations."

The three-time National League most valuable player and two-time World Series champion with the St. Louis Cardinals drove in a run on a walk, and threw out a Dodger at home on a squeeze bunt to help the Angels take an 8-2, eighth-inning lead on the Dodgers in the opener of the Freeway Series at Angel Stadium.

The Angels, boasting a 13% climb in season-ticket purchases after the Pujols' free-agent signing, drew 33,111 on Monday.

A grand Pujols moment was at hand when Dodgers reliever Todd Coffey gave up two singles, then walked Howie Kendrick to load the bases in the third inning for the Angels' new star.

Manager Don Mattingly, no stranger to dealing with Pujols in the National League, said pitching to him is a never-ending battle of adjustments fraught with the danger of a deep blast.

Considering that, Coffey threw far inside, missed with a curve, threw a low and outside pitch after a foul ball, then walked in a run on an outside delivery.

An out later, Torii Hunter improved the Angels' lead to 3-0 with a broken-bat single to center field.

Pujols spoke about that kind of production while meeting with reporters before the game.

He said the depth of the Angels roster, with a lineup that includes Hunter, Kendrys Morales and Kendrick, and a strong pitching staff means "there's no extra pressure" despite the demands that come with being paid $240 million over 10 years.

Pujols left two men in scoring position, grounding out to third base in the fifth inning and popping out to second in the sixth, a footnote after third baseman Mark Trumbo lined a three-run home run to left field against Kenley Jansen in the seventh.

Dan Haren capped his spring training with 25 strikeouts and only two walks by striking out five in 52/3 innings. Left fielder Juan Rivera, a former Angel, knocked in the only run against Haren with a fourth-inning double. The right-hander threw 94 pitches.

"I have the endurance to throw 110 right from the start," said Haren, Saturday's scheduled starter against Kansas City in a regular-season game. "I feel confident my stuff's going to play. My goal is to get out there 33, 34 times … I want less walks than starts."

Haren said he too feels the enthusiasm of Anaheim. Betrayed by low run production last season, he now anticipates a summer of Pujols and Morales, recovered from a fractured ankle after hitting 34 home runs in 2009.

"We're adding a No. 3 and 4 hitter," Haren said. "Not too many teams can do that."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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