Albert Pujols is finding his power stroke at the plate again, and CJ Wilson is feeling very comfortable on the mound — even at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Los Angeles Angels are going to need everything they can get from their two prized offseason acquisitions if they’re going to turn around what has thus far been a disappointing season.
Wilson and Ernesto Frieri combined on a one-hitter, Pujols homered for the third time in seven games and the Angels broke out of their offensive slump in a 5-0 win over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.
"We have a great pitching staff and they’re going to keep us in the game most of the time," said Pujols, who just missed a second home run in his final at-bat. "Our job as an offense is to try to score early and give them a little cushion so they can make their pitches. CJ was outstanding keeping the ball down today."
A day after losing its third consecutive one-run game, Los Angeles took a four-run lead after three innings and coasted the rest of the way to give Wilson (5-4) his first win in nearly three weeks.
Facing an Oakland lineup minus three starters, the Angels lefty didn’t give up a hit until Cliff Pennington’s one-out single in the fifth and faced only three batters over the minimum for eight innings to earn his first win since May 5. He had seven strikeouts with two walks.
The solid outing came after Wilson openly criticized Oakland fans in as well as the pitching mound in 2011. On Tuesday, he said some of his comments were taken out of context and brushed off repeated attempts by reporters to get him to talk about them.
"I just had good focus in between pitches," Wilson said of his outing. "I didn’t let the situation snowball. The wind was blowing in so if I fell behind I felt a lot of confidence I could throw a strike."
Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick both had RBI singles for the Angels, who had scored only five runs in their previous three games combined.
Oakland had won five of the previous seven meetings between the teams this season.
"The only time (Wilson) made mistakes was with his breaking ball and he was missing at the knees," Pennington said. "When a guy like that gets into a rhythm, it’s tough work."
Pujols, who signed a $240 million, 10-year deal with the Angels in the offseason, continued to show signs of heating up after a slow start with his new club.
He drove in the Angels’ first run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning then hit his fourth homer of the season with one out in the third, a towering solo shot to left off A’s starter Graham Godfrey. It was the 449th homer for Pujols, tying him with Vladimir Guerrero and Jeff Bagwell for 35th on the all-time list.
"He’s a monster," Wilson said of Pujols. "He crushed that ball."
More importantly for the Angels, Pujols has 15 RBI in his last 16 games after having only two through his first 18 games with Los Angeles.
That’s an encouraging sign for a team that began the day seven games under .500.
"It’s coming in drips and drabs," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It’s not like he woke up and all of a sudden today he has it. He’s been working toward this, it’s a process. He’s seeing the ball very well."
Collectively it was one of the Angels’ best offensive performances this month despite some shaky baserunning early.
Los Angeles scored three runs in the first but Trumbo was tagged out by A’s catcher Anthony Recker after a failed squeeze attempt in that inning. One batter later, Kendrick was thrown out by Oakland right fielder Collin Cowgill trying to score from second on Erick Aybar’s single.
Los Angeles hurt itself again in the second when Mike Trout struck out and was called for interference while John Hester attempted to steal second. Home plate umpire Bill Miller quickly ruled Hester out, and Scioscia came out to argue briefly.
It didn’t matter much with the way Wilson, who signed a five-year, $77.5 million contract, was pitching.
Frieri pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to secure Los Angeles’ sixth shutout this season, most in the majors.
Godfrey (0-4) didn’t stick around long in his return to the big leagues and remained winless this season.
The A’s right-hander, called up earlier in the day to replace injured starter Brandon McCarthy, threw only 53 pitches and left after allowing four runs and six hits over three innings. Godfrey has lost six consecutive starts dating to last season.
Oakland reliever Travis Blackley pitched well but allowed an unearned run in the seventh after Kendrys Morales reached on an error by third baseman Josh Donaldson. Jim Miller replaced Blackley and gave up a hit and walk to load the bases before hitting Aybar on his right knee to force in Morales and make it 5-0.
Aybar was replaced by a pinch runner and is listed as day to day.
Oakland was shut out for the seventh time this year, second-most in the majors behind the Angels (eight).
Notes: Pujols has homered against all but three teams — Texas, Baltimore and St. Louis. … A’s OF Yoenis Cespedes did some light hitting in the batting cage with three different-sized fungos but there is still no timetable for when the Cuban slugger will return from his injured left hand. Cespedes was leading all major league rookies in RBI and stolen bases when he was placed on the DL May 12. … Oakland LHP Brett Anderson’s rehab from elbow-ligament replacement surgery took a brief pause last week when he was shut down after experiencing forearm tightness but trainer Nick Paparesta is optimistic Anderson will remain on schedule in his recovery. … To make room on their roster for Godfrey, the A’s sent LHP Pedro Figueroa to Triple-A Sacramento. Figueroa had a 2.00 ERA in eight appearances with Oakland. … RHP Jered Weaver will attempt to become the AL’s first seven-game winner when he pitches in the series finale Wednesday. Weaver is 7-7 lifetime against Oakland. … RHP Jarrod Parker (1-2) will try to rebound for the A’s after getting shelled in his previous outing.