ARLINGTON -- Albert Pujols hit a two-run home run off Rangers starter Derek Holland, and the Angels took the opener of a three-game series with a 2-0 victory on Monday night.Starter Nick Tropeano combined with four relievers to pitch the Angels' third shutout of the season, and Joe Smith pitched
ARLINGTON -- Albert Pujols hit a two-run home run off Rangers starter Derek Holland, and the Angels took the opener of a three-game series with a 2-0 victory on Monday night.
Starter Nick Tropeano combined with four relievers to pitch the Angels' third shutout of the season, and Joe Smith pitched a scoreless ninth for his sixth save while filling in for Huston Street as closer. The Rangers had seven hits and three walks but were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
"We had some big outs, no doubt," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose team has won eight of its last 11 games despite having 10 players on the disabled list.
"I think it's just us coming together as a team," Tropeano said. "We're picking each other up."
Holland took the loss despite 6 2/3 strong innings, and the Rangers had a three-game winning streak come to an end. Holland is 0-3 with a 9.68 ERA in four starts in May after going 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in five April starts.
"That's the best movement I've had and the best off-speed stuff," Holland said. "You have to tip your cap to Pujols, the ball was down the middle and he's paid to hit that. It couldn't have been a better pitch to hit."
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Passing the baton: Tropeano pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, a day after Jered Weaver held the Orioles to two runs in seven innings and two days after Matt Shoemaker pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings. Four Angels starting pitchers are currently tending to serious injuries, but the rotation is seemingly turning a corner, posting a 3.00 ERA since May 13 that is the fourth-best in the Majors over that span. Tropeano has given up only one run in 13 2/3 innings over his last two starts, dropping his ERA to 2.86.
"Coming into the spring, we had eight guys fighting for those spots, and we were all capable of pitching here," Tropeano said. "And we all know it. It kind of fuels us. We fuel each other." More >
Moreland's struggles continue: The Rangers started the fourth inning with leadoff singles from Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre. But Tropeano struck out Mitch Moreland, getting him to chase on a 1-2 fastball outside. Moreland entered the game in an 0-for-11 slump and struck out his first two at-bats. Elvis Andrus then grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Climbing the ladder: Pujols turned on a 1-1 sinker from Holland in the third and blasted it out to left-center field for his 569th career home run, tying Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on the all-time list. Next on the list is Harmon Killebrew, with 573, and after that it's Pujols' former Cardinals teammate, Mark McGwire, with 583. Pujols' latest homer -- his ninth this season -- left his bat at 108 mph and traveled a projected 437 feet, according to Statcast™. It was his second-longest home run this season.
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"At the end of my career I can look back," said Pujols, his standard answer every time he moves up the home run leaderboard. "Right now I'm just trying to produce and help this ballclub win. That's the most important thing."
Rangers come up short in eighth: With the bases loaded and one out, Beltre hit a broken-bat line drive up the middle that was caught on a diving play by second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who was positioned behind the base. Moreland then came up and hit a line drive off the pitching arm of right-hander Fernando Salas, who picked up the ball, which had rolled a few feet away, and underhanded it to first, ending the rally. Moreland's line drive was 109 mph off the bat, according to Statcast™.
"Felt like we had the right guys at the plate there late who hit some balls hard and came away empty," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. More >
"Do you think I'm on the hill thinking about Tim Lincecum and C.J. Wilson? Nah. I think we're just out there pitching our games, trying to execute pitches early in the count and trying to get those big outs when I need it." -- Tropeano, on pitching with a sense of urgency now that reinforcements are seemingly on the way
"I thought Derek mixed better tonight, close to 70 percent strikes, got eight ground balls and six fly balls, which is something we don't always see from Derek with the ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio. It came down to one swing of the bat. Looked like they were trying to go in on Pujols and couldn't get it there, and in this type of game, against a guy who hits against us very well and you don't have a whole lot of offensive support, one swing of the bat can get you." -- Banister, on Holland
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• Giavotella slapped a single in the top of the second, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. Giavotella, who finished 2-for-4, is batting .413 (19-for-46) during that stretch and is hitting at a .381 clip since May 4, raising his batting average from .169 to .279.
"I feel comfortable up there," he said. "Earlier in the season, I got off to a slow start, but I didn't change anything. I kept my confidence up, and I kept my belief that things would turn around. I'm feeling good up there right now." More >
• Pujols is batting .313/.400/.604 with four home runs in 48 at-bats on days when he makes starts at first base, and only .195/.270/.333, with five home runs in 123 at-bats as a designated hitter. Scioscia acknowledged that Pujols "absolutely" feels more comfortable at first base, but it will not alter their plan to have him start the majority of the time at DH.
"Eventually, I think with Albert, if he pushes too hard at first base, no matter how comfortable he feels, he might not be as strong in the batter's box as he needs to be," Scioscia said. "And that's important." More >
The Rangers thought Rougned Odor beat out an infield single on a leadoff grounder to short in the first inning. Banister challenged, but the call was confirmed by replay. It was only the second challenge in 11 games used by the Rangers.
Angels: Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin will start the second game of this series, scheduled for 5:05 p.m. PT Tuesday. Chacin is 0-0 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts since being acquired from the Braves on May 11.
Rangers: Left-hander Martin Perez will get the start against the Angels at 7:05 p.m. CT Tuesday. Perez is 0-2 with a 2.59 ERA in four starts in May.
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T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.