ANAHEIM, Calif. — When Albert Pujols hit his 592nd career homer leading off the ninth inning, the shot appeared to be a pleasant asterisk on a blowout loss for the Los Angeles Angels.
By the time he came up again eight batters later, the bases were loaded and the game had changed — and Pujols came through again to keep an incredible comeback rolling.
Pujols homered and hit a tying two-run single before Cliff Pennington’s drive to the wall capped Los Angeles’ ninth-inning rally from a six-run deficit for a 10-9 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
Pennington’s single drove in Mike Trout to end a preposterous finish by the Angels, who trailed 8-1 in the seventh and 9-3 before Pujols homered off Casey Fien.
The Halos scored seven runs on five hits and four walks in the ninth inning, sending them to their first 5-2 start to a season since 2007. The franchise hadn’t scored at least seven runs in the ninth to win a one-run game since Aug. 29, 1986.
“To come all the way back like that, that’s one of those magical, magical wins,” Pennington said. “It will probably only happen a few times a year, but it’s a good one.”
After Pujols connected and subsequently Fien walked the bases loaded, Yunel Escobar trimmed Seattle’s lead with a two-out, two-run double off closer Edwin Diaz (0-1), who gave up three hits.
“It’s a tough one to swallow because I put (Diaz) in a bad situation, and he tried to battle and get himself out of it,” Fien said. “They got some hits that usually aren’t hits, but it was one of those games.”
Diaz then walked Kole Calhoun and Trout before Pujols and Pennington delivered back-to-back singles, setting off a raucous celebration on the field and among the thousands of Angels fans who didn’t leave early.
“It’s huge,” Pennington said. “It gives you a lot of momentum. Two or three weeks from now, when we’re down by three or four runs in the seventh, it’s a feeling that you’ve had before, where you’ve come back and won that game. So much of this game is between the ears, that when you do this type of thing a couple of times, you start to believe you can, and then it happens more frequently.”
Andrew Bailey (2-0) pitched the ninth in the Angels’ fifth win in six games since opening day.
Robinson Cano had a three-run homer and a two-run double for the Mariners, who fell to 1-6 in excruciating fashion.
“It’s a really tough one,” Cano said. “The thing is, nothing is going our way. We’ve just got to keep fighting. The last thing you want is to hang your head and start thinking about what happened the first seven, eight games. Just get ready for tomorrow.”
The Mariners appeared to be cruising when Mitch Haniger knocked a 427-foot drive off Angel Stadium’s ficus trees in the seventh inning to put them up by seven runs. Instead, Seattle’s bullpen fell apart in spectacular fashion, giving up nine runs and nine hits in three innings.
Hisashi Iwakuma pitched six innings of two-hit ball for the Mariners, yielding only Andrelton Simmons’ early homer, but the Japanese veteran remains winless in two starts despite yielding only three runs in 12 innings.
Matt Shoemaker yielded five hits and six earned runs while failing to get out of the fifth inning. It was the right-hander’s second start since his season ended early last September due to a line drive to his head off the bat of Seattle’s Kyle Seager.
“Those guys picked me up huge,” Shoemaker said. “Made a really, really sour day turn really sweet. It’s awesome.”
Angels: Just one Los Angeles starter threw six full innings in the first week of the season, forcing the bullpen to work extensively. The bullpen gets a rest day Monday, but the Angels have 20 games in the ensuing 20 days.
Mariners: James Paxton (0-0, 0.00 ERA) takes the mound for the home opener against Houston. He pitched six strong innings against the Astros last week, allowing only three baserunners.