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Pujols, Haren take care of Mariners

SEATTLE – The gem Dan Haren tossed Thursday looked awfully familiar to Albert Pujols. Except this time, instead of Pujols getting fooled by what Haren was tossing, he was helping the Los Angeles Angels’ right-hander put together one of the finest efforts of his career.

“He makes good hitters look pretty bad including myself, he has in the past,” Pujols said. “He is pretty amazing when he keeps the ball down.”

Pujols had three hits, including his 450th career home run, and Haren struck out a career-high 14 to lead the Los Angeles Angels to a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels and Mariners met for the first of 19 games this season and Pujols, a newcomer to the American League West rivalry, made his presence known immediately. He lined a two-run homer off Jason Vargas (5-4) in the top of the first and added line-drive singles in the fourth and sixth innings. It was only his third three-hit game this season.

And those runs proved to be plenty for Haren (2-5), who tossed the sixth shutout and 16th complete game of his career. He allowed four hits and one Seattle baserunner to reach third base.

Haren picked up his 1,500th career strikeout when he got Michael Saunders looking to end the eighth inning. He was given the chance at the complete game despite starting the ninth at 110 pitches but struck out Alex Liddi for the fourth time, got Ichiro Suzuki swinging and closed it out by getting Kyle Seager to ground out.

After struggling with a sore back, putting together that kind of performance was gratifying for Haren.

“Even pitching at 80 percent I should get better results than I have been getting in prior starts. I think it was obvious tonight that my stuff was better and I was feeling better in general,” Haren said. “I’m happy obviously to win a game. I forgot what it felt like.”

The 32-year-old Pujols is the fourth-youngest player to reach 450 homers, behind Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Jimmie Foxx. Pujols smacked a 3-1 pitch off the facade of the second deck in left field with a thud for his fifth homer of the season and second in three games.

“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.”

Pujols stole second and scored on Kendrys Morales’ RBI single to left in the sixth.

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