On a night when Albert Pujols moved up the career home run ladder, rookie teammate David Fletcher grabbed onto the bottom rung.
Pujols hit two home runs to tie Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth place with 630, and Fletcher connected for his first in the majors as the Los Angeles Angels romped to an 11-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.
Pujols rarely talks about personal achievements. But matching Griffey, a former Mariners star, had him feeling an extra sense of pride.
“Griffey was everybody’s hero growing up and that’s how I look at it,” Pujols said. “I know I am a right-handed hitter, but everybody wanted to have that sweet swing. For me, I got a chance to become pretty good friends with him. … It’s just really special to tie a legend and against a team that he came up with in the big leagues.”
Justin Upton also homered for the Angels, who took two of three in the series. Tyler Skaggs pitched six strong innings in his return from the disabled list.
Mariners starter James Paxton left in the first inning with lower back stiffness.
Pujols hit a two-run shot in the first and a solo drive in the sixth. He also had three hits to pass ex-Angel Rod Carew and move into a tie for 25th all-time with Rickey Henderson at 3,055.
It was the 50th multihomer game for Pujols, who has 16 home runs this season. He went back-to-back with Upton in the sixth.
Paxton (8-4) exited after Pujols connected for the first time. The left-hander gave up three runs and three hits in two-thirds of an inning, throwing just 17 pitches in his final start of the first half.
The injury is not believed to be serious, but the Mariners could put Paxton on the disabled list to add a player to the roster for this weekend’s interleague series at Colorado.
“Going out in the first inning, you can tell right from the get-go that he was not right,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He wanted to give it a go and try to battle through it but you could see that it was not the typical James Paxton.”
Skaggs (7-5), who missed nine games with a hamstring strain, gave up one run on five hits with five strikeouts and a walk. The left-hander has allowed one earned or less in six consecutive outings, the longest such streak from an Angels starter since George Brunet in 1968.
“This is the best I have ever thrown the ball in my career so I’m going to take it one day at a time, one step at a time,” Skaggs said. “I’m extremely proud of (the one-run streak). As a starting pitcher, that’s all you ask for.”
Fletcher hit the Angels’ third leadoff home run this season. Ian Kinsler had the other two.
“Fletch is doing a good job since we called him up and he has been a spark in our lineup,” Pujols said. “He has done a great job and has played an unbelievable third base. It’s really special for him to grow up in this area, go to school just down the street.”
Upton’s home run was his 18th and it gave Los Angeles an 8-1 lead in the sixth.
The Angels have won three of their past four series. The one they lost was last weekend in Seattle. The Angels had lost five of their last six against the Mariners before this series began.
NO AVERAGE JOE
Mike Trout scored three runs and stole a base, joining Hall of Famer Joe Morgan (1974) as the only players to compile 100 hits, 80 walks and 15 steals before the All-Star break.
It was not only Trout’s third three-run game of the season, his walk gave him a major league-leading 81 on the season. The previous Angels record in a first half was 62.
Trout’s 81 walks are the most before the All-Star break since Frank Thomas had 84 for the Chicago White Sox in 1994.
ROMINE PITCHES IN
Mariners infielder Andrew Romine entered as a pitcher in the eighth to face his former team and the right-hander retired Trout (fly ball) and Pujols (grounder) before giving up a two-run single to Kinsler, who had three hits.
It was Romine’s fifth appearance as a pitcher. He took the mound four times for the Detroit Tigers, including two scoreless appearances last season.
Mariners: LHP Marco Gonzales (bruised left calf) was getting treatment after he was hit by a comebacker Wednesday, and Servais said the 10-game winner will be pushed to the back half of the rotation after next week’s All-Star break. … RHP Felix Hernandez (lower back stiffness) will come off the disabled list next week and pitch at the front of the rotation when the second half of the season begins.
Angels: RHP Garrett Richards has elected Tommy John surgery over a conservative treatment option for his damaged ulnar collateral ligament and will miss the remainder of the season. … OF Chris Young (left hamstring strain) was given a platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection but has not started baseball activity after he was placed on the 10-day disabled list July 4.
Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman, who threw seven scoreless innings May 16 in his only major league appearance this season, will be recalled Friday to start the series opener at Colorado.
Angels: One week after recording a career-best eight strikeouts against the Dodgers at home, right-hander Felix Pena (1-0, 3.63 ERA) will get another crack at them Friday in Los Angeles.
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