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Royals shut down Pujols, but lose opener to Angels

Los Angeles Angels' Albert Pujols gets set to bat during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, Friday, April 6, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. Los Angeles Angels' Albert Pujols gets set to bat during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, Friday, April 6, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
By Greg Beacham
AP Sports Writer / April 7, 2012
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ANAHEIM, Calif.—Albert Pujols was little trouble for Bruce Chen and Aaron Crow in the Royals' opener.

Nobody in the Kansas City lineup was any trouble at all for Jered Weaver, and that's why the Royals are still starting the season in a hole.

Weaver struck out 10 in eight dominant innings of four-hit ball, Peter Bourjos' bases-loaded infield single broke open a scoreless game in the eighth inning, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Royals 5-0 Friday night in Pujols' hitless debut.

The Royals tamped down the celebration on a big night for Pujols, who went 0 for 3 with an eighth-inning intentional walk after getting several raucous pregame ovations from a crowd that still can't quite believe he's wearing a halo cap.

Yet Kansas City couldn't capitalize because Weaver was in the same intimidating form that made him the runner-up for last year's AL Cy Young award. The right-hander retired 13 straight Royals after allowing back-to-back singles in the third inning, finished with double-digit strikeouts for the 12th time in his career, and didn't walk a batter.

"When you're matched up against Weaver, you know you're not scoring a bunch of runs," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "That's no surprise."

Chen, the oldest player on the majors' youngest team, matched each of Weaver's zeros during six innings of three-hit ball in the first opening day start of his 14-year, 10-team career. He retired Pujols twice, and Crow fanned the slugger on three pitches in the seventh -- but Crow fell apart in the eighth, and the Angels rallied for their second straight opening-day win over Kansas City.

"We were in it all the way to the eighth," Chen said. "We have one of the best bullpens in the league, and we want to use it. The next time I'm pitching, I want those two guys again."

After seven fruitless innings, the Angels finally made an eighth-inning rally that began with a single by Kendrys Morales in his first game since breaking his ankle nearly two years ago.

After Morales connected against All-Star reliever Crow (0-1), pinch-runner Alexi Amarista advanced to third on sharp singles by converted third baseman Mark Trumbo and new catcher Chris Iannetta. After two Royals couldn't cleanly field Bourjos' single off Greg Holland, Erick Aybar's shot down the line cleared the bases, and Torii Hunter added a run-scoring single moments later.

"It's my job to keep us in the game, and it's their job to get some runs on the board," Weaver said. "We've got a great lineup, so it's just a matter of time before we start putting it together."

The night was a celebration of Pujols, who signed a 10-year, $240 million deal to leave Missouri and continue his career in Southern California. He was the center of attention at Angel Stadium from the moment he stepped on the field for batting practice, and he got the longest and loudest ovation from the Orange County crowd during pregame introductions, taking off his red cap and saluting his new fans.

"Just the same nerves that go through for the last 11 years of my career," Pujols said. "It's just something my dad always told me: If you don't go through that, you ain't ready. I knew I was ready because I was going through that."

Pujols lined into a first-inning double play, popped out in the third, and struck out on three pitches in the seventh. He walked in the eighth, but the Angels already had made their decisive rally.

Pujols has played baseball too long to worry about one game, yet he really wanted to do something special right away in Anaheim.

"I keep looking at my bat," Pujols said. "I was putting good barrel on it, but that's the way it goes."

NOTES: Weaver is the third Angels pitcher to get at least 10 strikeouts on opening day, joining Nolan Ryan (12 apiece in 1973 and 1975) and Andy Messersmith (11 in 1970). ... The clubs also met on opening day last season, with the Angels winning 4-2 in Kansas City. The Royals hadn't opened a season in Anaheim since 1975. ... Bobby Abreu began the season on the Angels' bench after going 7 for 55 in spring training amid reported complaints about his potential playing time.

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