Albert Pujols didn’t have to wait nearly as long for his first home run this year. He had to wait awhile for another chance to swing the bat, though.
Then he homered again.
Pujols went deep in his only two plate appearances that weren’t intentional walks to offset another tough day for Josh Hamilton in his second game back in Texas, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Rangers 8-4 Saturday.
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 off Matt Harrison in the first inning 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.”
Mark Trumbo also had a two-run homer in the first against Harrison (0-2), who gave up eight hits and five runs in five innings after losing to Houston on opening night.
”The biggest thing was that first inning,” said Harrison, who has an 8.44 ERA through two starts. ”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.”
Mitch 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.”
Peter Bourjos greeted Frasor with a home run to start the sixth, and two outs later Pujols fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before sending a fastball into the seats in left field.
”We know it’s a long season, but you don’t want to wait too long,” Pujols said. ”You want to get it going early. This is a big series and we have a tough month.”
Moreland broke an 0-for-13 spell to start the season and 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.
Pujols made his first start of the season at DH, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he planned to give Hamilton an occasional break from defense as well. … The Rangers infield committed its first error after 77 clean chances to start the season when 3B Adrian Beltre booted a grounder in the seventh. … Hanson allowed the fourth most homers in the NL last season (27) and gave up four in 18 1/3 innings during spring training. … Rangers INF Leury Garcia made his major league debut as a pinch hitter for Lance Berkman in the eighth and struck out.