- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - Seattle couldn’t get the key hit it needed in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels.

The Angels, powered by Albert Pujols’ 521st home run, went on to beat the Seattle Mariners 5-3 to take two of three in the opening series.

Down 5-0 after two innings, the Mariners battled back with a solo home run by Brad Miller in the third and a two-run shot in the sixth by Kyle Seager, his first hit of the season.

Down 5-3 in the eighth, the Mariners threatened to score off Joe Smith when Dustin Ackley opened with a single and Robinson Cano doubled him to third.

Nelson Cruz, the club’s offseason free-agent acquisition, struck out.

“I was looking for something I could drive and at least score one run,” he said. “He threw me pitches that were probably outside the zone and I was swinging. I should be more patient in that situation.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia then came out to talk to Smith. He took the unusual step by telling him that if Seager doesn’t swing early, walk him. That goes against the conventional wisdom by putting the go-ahead run on base.

“I don’t mind,” Smith said. “It just sets up a double play anywhere.”

Smith then struck out Rickie Weeks and got Logan Morrison to fly out to center.

“The guys were really, really grinding out there,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We fought back and just came up a little short. I was very proud of the way we went about our business tonight.”

Pujols gave the Angels the lead in the first with his two-run shot off Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1). That tied him with Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas for 18th on the all-time list.

“That’s a nice neighborhood to be in,” Scioscia said.

Mariners catcher Mike Zunino said Iwakuma was intending to throw Pujols a down-and-away fastball “but it sailed up and in on him.”

“When you miss up in the zone to a guy like Albert, he’s going to hit mistakes.”

Iwakuma (0-1) worked six innings, allowing nine hits, five runs, striking out three and walking none.

“He’s tough, man,” Pujols said of Iwakuma. “We got him early but he’s such a competitive pitcher. Look at his recent record. He owned us. He was always tough against us.”

Huston Street worked the ninth for his second save.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mariners: OF Seth Smith missed his second straight game with a tight groin. It’s not believed serious enough for extended time off. He could have pinch hit Wednesday, if needed.

Angels: Angels have two players on the DL who are eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday but will not. RHP Garrett Richards missed his first start of the season but could be ready next week. He will pitch in an extended spring outing Thursday. OF Josh Hamilton (right shoulder), has not even started working out.

FRANK ROBINSON LEGACY

It was 40 years ago Wednesday that Frank Robinson became the first African-American manager, for the Cleveland Indians. So many years later, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is in his debt. “As a 16-year-old it didn’t have much impact on me then but sitting here today I realize how important it really was,” he said. “Along with Frank and Jackie Robinson, they opened up doors that probably wouldn’t have been available for guys like me if they hadn’t done it first. I’m very appreciative of that fact.”

UP NEXT

Mariners: Seattle has Thursday off, a travel day to Oakland. Young RHP Taijuan Walker will open the series Friday against the A’s. He allowed just two runs in 27 innings this spring. He’ll be opposed by LHP Drew Pomeranz.

Angels: A day off Thursday will be followed by three straight against the defending AL champion Kansas City Royals. LHP Hector Santiago gets his first start and will be opposed by Royals LHP Jason Vargas (0-1, 6.00 ERA).

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