After DH Nelson Cruz hit his 43rd homer in the first inning, the Angels jumped all over Mariners starter Vidal Nuno in the bottom half with four extra base hits and four runs to coast to an 8-4 win Friday night in Anaheim. Los Angeles (79-74) moved to within a half-game of losing Houston for the American League’s second wild card spot. The Angels have won six of eight, the Mariners have lost three in a row.
As part of the first-inning barrage, Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer into the Mariners bullpen, his 37th and the 557th of his career for a 3-1 lead, signaling that Nuno had little going on and the night was about to be long for the relievers.
The Mariners closed to 4-3 in the second on run-scoring singles from Logan Morrison and Brad Miller, each of whom had two hits, as did Kyle Seager. The Mariners got one more back in the eighth on a Morrison single but James Jones struck out with bases loaded.
In 4.1 innings, Nuno gave up five runs on nine hits. He has one win in his last 23 starts dating back to July of last season. Over his past two years with the Yankees, D-backs and Mariners, he’s 3-15 with a 4.51 ERA in 36 starts. Four young relievers gave up three more runs.
Angels starter Garrett Richard ended his troubles in the second by striking out C Steve Baron, SS Ketel Marte and Seager. He won his 15th game by giving up three runs and five hits over seven innings.
Cruz’s 43rd homer ties him for the major league lead with Baltimore’s Chris Davis. Cruz has a shot at becoming the first player to lead the majors in homers for two different teams in back-to-back years since Babe Ruth in 1919-20 . . . Before the game, McClendon said he was unsure whether James Paxton would pitch again this season after the lefty tore a fingernail again after 1.1 innings Thursday in Kansas City. He had a shot for up to two more starts after missing four months with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand. McClendon already decided to shut down young righthander Taijuan Walker after pitching a career high 169 innings, but that could change.
Felix Hernandez (18-9, 3.54) goes in the series’ second game at 6:10 p.m. Saturday against Angels LHP Andrew Heaney (6-3, 3.30).