It was clear from the Angels’ recent results — and their roster moves — that the team was switching up to a more aggressive, offense-minded strategy.
Thanks to the return of superstar Mike Trout from the paternity list, and perhaps boosted by the promotion of top prospect Jo Adell, the Angels overpowered, never trailed, and held off the Mariners in Seattle 5-3 on Tuesday.
Trout went deep in his first at-bat after the birth of his first child, son Beckham Aaron, with a line-drive laser home run in the first off Seattle starter Justin Dunn.
Later in the inning, with a runner on, first baseman Albert Pujols turned on a Dunn curveball for a two-run shot and a 3-0 lead.
The blast was the 659th of Pujols’ storied career — placing the Angels slugger two homers from passing Willie Mays on the all-time MLB homer list.
Only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Alex Rodriguez (696) and Mays (660) have more homers than Pujols.
Pujols’ shot was measured at 378 feet by Statcast, a no-doubter that left the bat at 97.2 mph. It was Pujols’ second game with a homer after he connected for a grand slam on Sunday against the Astros.
Angels manager Joe Maddon may be more tempted to play Pujols more frequently at first base if he maintains his outslug-them approach.
Said Maddon: “It looks like he’s on time better right now. Albert has been getting more comfortable in the box. The home runs have been hit really, really well.
“I’m not looking at his (batting) average. I’m looking at the quality of his at-bats and for me, they’re getting incrementally better.”
Angels shortstop David Fletcher, filling in for Andrelton Simmons, who is nursing an ankle injury, added a couple of insurance runs in the seventh with a line-drive homer inside the left-field foul pole off Seattle reliever Erik Swanson.
Fletcher’s homer was the 16th of the season for the Angels, who are tied for second in HR in the American League.
Fletcher, an Orange County native, also played spectacular defense at shortstop, turning in a series of plays that even the glove wizard Simmons would have admired.
He took away a hit from Seattle’s Dylan Moore in the ninth, making a slick stab on his backhand in the hole and gunning a powerful throw across his body to record the out.
“Fletch had a wonderful night at shortstop,” Maddon said. “That’s what you need — you need to pitch the ball, you need to play tight defense, and the hits will come.”
Andrew Heaney, the Angels’ Opening Day starter, turned in another solid outing. The left-hander scattered three hits and a run in 5-2/3 innings and lasting until the 87-pitch mark.
Heaney threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 23 batters he faced. With a 2.35 ERA after three starts, Heaney is leading a trio of Angels pitchers who have been better than advertised.
Right-handers Dylan Bundy (2.84 ERA) and Griffin Canning (3.38) have also been above average, and they’ll be joined in the Halos rotation on Wednesday by veteran Julio Teheran, who will make his Angels debut after several seasons with the Atlanta Braves.
Maddon said: “You’re only going to go as far as your pitching staff is going to take you. They could have called this game ‘pitching’ as opposed to ‘baseball.’ … If we continue to get that, I believe the guys on the field are strong enough to be championship caliber.”
As for debuts, Adell went 1-for-3 in his first major-league game and scratched out a hit in his first at-bat, beating out a slow chopper to Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager.
Adell’s spring speed was measured at more than 30 feet per second in beating out the hit.
Right-hander Ty Buttrey pitched in a four-out save as the Angels improved to 4-7. For two nights, Buttrey has handled the closer role in Maddon’s “closer by committee” approach after the ineffectiveness of incumbent fireman Hansel Robles.