Angels knock around Harrison early, beat Rangers
Matt Harrison found trouble early instead of late in his second start of the season. The result was the same - a loss.
Harrison allowed two-run homers to Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo in the first inning, Pujols went deep again in his only other plate appearance that wasn't an intentional walk, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Rangers 8-4 on Saturday despite another rough day for Josh Hamilton in his return to Texas.
"The biggest thing was that first inning," said Harrison, who lost to Houston on opening night and has an 8.44 ERA after allowing eight hits and five runs in five innings against the Angels. "The balls I left up in the zone were hit hard, and it just led to a four-spot in that first and put us in a big hole."
Harrison (0-2) settled down with three scoreless innings after six of the first nine Los Angeles batters reached base to build a 5-0 lead. It was the opposite of his first start against Houston, when he retired the first nine hitters before giving up two runs each in the fourth, fifth and sixth.
"He's had a couple of starts that probably are not characteristic of Harry," said teammate Mitch Moreland, who ended an 0-for-13 start to the season with a long home run. "But he's a great pitcher. He's one of our main guys. We're going to count on him every time he toes it up."
Exactly a month earlier than he hit his first homer in his debut season for the Angels last year, Pujols drove a two-run shot to the lawn in center field and watched Hamilton strike out twice behind him after taking two of three intentional walks.
The next - and last - time the Rangers let him swing, Pujols homered off reliever Jason Frasor in the sixth.
"I think it was a smart move," said Hamilton, who is 1 for 20 with 10 strikeouts after signing a $125 million, five-year contract. "Albert was dominating today, obviously. If I was in their situation, I would have done the same thing."
Moreland and Ian Kinsler hit third-inning home runs against Tommy Hanson (1-0), who gave up three runs and six hits over six innings in his Angels debut after arriving in an offseason trade with Atlanta.
The boos were loud again for Hamilton, who said before the game that his wife had to call over security during Friday's home opener for Texas because fans were shouting insults and obscenities at their family. There were no major incidents, and Hamilton said his family planned to return for the remaining two games.
Hamilton, a five-time All-Star with the Rangers who went 0 for 4 in his return Friday, walked in the first inning ahead of Trumbo's opposite-field home run to right.
First base was open the next two times Pujols came up, so Rangers manager Ron Washington chose to pitch to his former slugger. Hamilton struck out both times on breaking pitches in the dirt. He flied out to left in the sixth and again in the eighth after another intentional walk to Pujols.
"Hamilton is not swinging the bat well, we had some left-handers out there and we just went for the matchup each time," Washington said. "Each time we didn't walk (Pujols), you seen what happened."
In his return to Texas, Hamilton is 0 for 8 with a walk and four strikeouts, and isn't hitting the ball very hard when he does make contact.
"If I was somewhere else, the same thing would be going on. It'll get better," Hamilton said.
Pujols, also playing under the weight of a huge new contract at this time a year ago, didn't hit his first homer of 2012 until May 6 at Toronto. Odds were pretty good he would go deep at Rangers Ballpark, where he has four multihomer games in his past 15, including a three-homer outburst in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series with St. Louis.
After a slow start last year, Pujols knows what Hamilton is going through.
"We're only five games into the season. Let the guy settle down," Pujols said. "Let's see where we are a month from now. You guys said that last year about me and I proved a lot of people wrong."
Moreland was the first batter to reach against Hanson when he hit a 435-foot home run halfway up the upper deck in right field in the third inning. Kinsler followed two batters later with a homer to left.
"I was just trying not to jump up and down running around the bases because I finally got a hit," said Moreland, who went hitless with two strikeouts in his other three at-bats. "It's definitely not the start you want. But man, we've got a long ways to go."
Nelson Cruz homered inside the left-field foul pole in the ninth off Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, who was pitching because he hadn't appeared since getting the save on opening day Monday in Cincinnati.
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