Angels-Mariners Preview

The Associated Press

Having seemingly put his struggles at the plate behind him, Albert Pujols may be able to help the Los Angeles Angels begin living up to their potential.

Pujols and the Angels go for a season-high fourth consecutive win Friday night when they continue their four-game set against the host Seattle Mariners.

Since seeing his average drop to .190 on May 8, Pujols has batted .295 while hitting safely in 13 of 15 games. He's also started to rediscover his power stroke, with four homers over his last nine contests after hitting just one in his first 36 games with Los Angeles.

He hit his 450th career homer - becoming the fourth-youngest player to reach that milestone - in the first inning Thursday to help the Angels earn a 3-0 series-opening victory.

The 32-year-old first baseman finished with three hits to raise his average to .225, his highest mark since April 28.

"This game comes and goes. I think the main thing is to be positive all the time and continue to make sure to make good adjustments," Pujols said. "Today I swung the bat pretty well, but tomorrow is a new day, you have to try to be consistent."

The Angels signed the three-time NL MVP to a 10-year, $240 million contract in the offseason hoping to challenge Texas for the AL West title. Los Angeles, though, has trailed the Rangers by a wide margin for much of the early season as it's stayed below .500.

A well-timed surge might help the Angels (21-25) trim their 6 1/2-game division deficit. Los Angeles hasn't won four in a row since a six-game run Aug. 18-24.

The Angels will give the ball Friday to Ervin Santana (2-6, 4.22 ERA), who has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last three outings but couldn't get enough support to earn a third straight win Sunday in San Diego.

He gave up two runs over six innings, leaving with the score tied in a game the Angels eventually lost 3-2 in 13 innings. The effort gave Santana a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts after posting a mark of 7.23 in his first four.

Santana has thrived in recent visits to Safeco Field, where he's given up two runs or fewer in seven of his last nine outings. He hasn't allowed more than three in any of his last nine outings against Seattle (21-26).

The Mariners will counter with Blake Beavan (2-4, 4.46). The right-hander earned his first win since April 15 on Sunday, allowing two runs and striking out a season-high seven over five innings of a 6-4 victory at Colorado.

"Beavan battled," manager Eric Wedge told the Mariners' official website. "He didn't have his best stuff. He definitely didn't have his fastball command, but he didn't give in to it, still mixed his pitches and got us into the sixth inning."

Beavan is 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA in three career starts against the Angels. He has never faced Pujols.

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