Albert Pujols and Mike Trout have been fairly quiet for the Los Angeles Angels in this four-game series against the Seattle Mariners , and it doesn't figure to get any easier against Hisashi Iwakuma in the finale.
Iwakuma went 4-0 against the Angels last season and has baffled hitters in 2013 heading into Sunday's contest, which also features Jason Vargas ' return to Safeco Field to face his former team.
The lack of production from Pujols and Trout has been a theme in the first month for Los Angeles (9-14). Pujols is hitting .256, Trout is at .274 and they are being pitched to very carefully, combining for as many walks (25) as RBIs.
Seattle (10-16) has taken two of three in this series, with Pujols going 2 for 11 with two RBIs and no walks while Trout is 3 for 10 with no runs scored and one RBI. Trout led the majors with 129 runs in 2012.
Neither has fared well against Iwakuma (2-1, 1.99 ERA). Pujols has two doubles and no walks in 13 at-bats and Trout is 2 for 12 with one walk and three strikeouts.
Iwakuma posted a 1.37 ERA in winning all four starts against the Angels last season, with 13 1-3 scoreless innings in two at home. Los Angeles batted .227 with one homer, 22 strikeouts and three walks against him in 2012.
The Japanese right-hander struck out a season-high 11 and allowed three runs in Tuesday's 3-2 defeat at Houston - his first loss in eight outings. He has been bothered by a blister on his throwing hand, although opponents are batting .164 against him.
"It's still an issue," manager Eric Wedge told the Mariners' official website. "We'll have to make his next start on regular rest, then after that we'll have an opportunity to maybe give him a couple days, working with the off days."
Vargas (0-2, 5.82) was traded from Seattle to Los Angeles in the deal for Kendrys Morales as he makes his first start against the Mariners - the only team he has never faced. He went 36-42 with a 4.09 ERA over his last four seasons for Seattle, going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA in 2012.
The left-hander said he was surprised to be dealt.
"I thought that I was going to be a part of it, but they had other plans," he told the Angels' official website. "And baseball changes quick, man. To be able to be a part of this (with Los Angeles), you couldn't ask for a better situation. Things happen the way they happen."
Vargas turned in his longest outing of the season Tuesday, giving up three runs over seven innings in a 5-4, 11-inning victory over Texas.
It's not surprising that the Seattle hitter he has faced the most is Morales, who is 5 for 12 with two homers against him.
Morales started the first two games of this series before delivering a go-ahead, pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh inning of Saturday's 3-2 victory.
"It was a matter of having Kendrys Morales on the bench," Wedge said.
The Mariners are trying to capture a series for the first time in 2013.
|Los Angeles Angels|
|April 20, 2013||Mark Lowe||15-Day DL||Neck stiffness|
|April 13, 2013||Kevin Jepsen||15-Day DL||Right triceps tightness|
|April 11, 2013||Alberto Callaspo||Day-to-Day||Calf|
|April 11, 2013||Alberto Callaspo||15-Day DL||Right calf tightness|
|April 10, 2013||Erick Aybar||15-Day DL||Bruised left heel|
|April 09, 2013||Erick Aybar||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised left heel|
|April 23, 2013||Franklin Gutierrez||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 22, 2013||Franklin Gutierrez||Day-to-Day||Torn right hamstring|
|April 15, 2013||Stephen Pryor||15-Day DL||Torn right lat muscle|
|April 12, 2013||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Fractured finger|
|April 11, 2013||Michael Saunders||15-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
|April 10, 2013||Michael Saunders||Day-to-Day||Sprained right shoulder|
SEATTLE (AP) -- The Seattle Mariners were having no luck connecting with the changeup of Los Angeles Angels starter Jason Vargas on Sunday.
So they had to change their approach to rally from a one-run deficit. Jason Bay and Michael Morse took advantage of Vargas' mistakes with his fastball to hit a pair of solo home runs and give the Mariners a 2-1 win over the Angels.
The Mariners won three of four from the Angels over the weekend to earn their first series victory of the year.
Vargas (0-3) was commanding his changeup well and keeping Mariners hitters off balance throughout the game. Seattle knew they had to take advantage of Vargas' fastball to find success against the former Mariners left-hander.
Seattle was trailing 1-0 in the seventh inning with Jason Bay set to leadoff the inning. Vargas struck out Bay on a changeup in each of his first two at-bats of the game. He went to the plate in the seventh looking to pounce on the first fastball he saw.
"His changeup was really good today. Really good," Bay said. "I was trying to get to a situation where I didn't have to see the changeup. If I got a fastball early, I was going to attack it."
Vargas threw a first pitch fastball to Bay and left it right over the middle of the plate. Bay capitalized and put it into the Angels bullpen beyond the left field wall to even the game at 1-1.
"Bay had a couple tough at-bats against him. He's a pro. To be able to separate from that and go up there and tie the ball game, that's a huge blow for us," Wedge said.
Morse had to wait out his opportunity. Vargas got ahead of him 1-2 in the count in the eighth inning but again left a fastball dead center of the plate. Morse made him pay with another blast into the Angels bullpen to give Seattle their first lead of game.
"It was just a bad pitch," Vargas said. "Trying to go away - straight down the middle with nothing on it."
Vargas pitched his eighth career complete game in the loss against his former team. He allowed six hits, two walks and struck out seven. Carter Capps (2-1) got the victory and Tom Wilhelmsen closed for his ninth save.
Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma allowed only an unearned run over six innings of work as he continues to battle a bad blister on his middle finger. Iwakuma struck out eight over six innings, allowing only an unearned run. He gave up just three hits and walked none.
"I thought that I was able to pitch with a better tempo today and I think that I was able to keep the team in the ball game," Iwakuma said through a translator.
The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the sixth after Andrew Romine led off with a single and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Peter Bourjos .
Romine scored when a groundball from Mike Trout scooted underneath the glove of shortstop Robert Andino for an error. Andino has been playing more regularly for Seattle since defensive stalwart Brendan Ryan was benched for his struggles at the plate.
NOTES: Mariners OF Michael Saunders could rejoin the team on Monday following a Triple-A rehab stint. He sprained his right shoulder on April 11 and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Saunders played in the field for the time for Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday. ... Iwakuma lowered his ERA to 1.67 for the season. ... The heart of the Angels lineup ( Mike Trout , Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton ) were a combined 0 for 12 against Mariners pitchers on Sunday. ... Los Angeles hit just .161 over the final two games of the series.