Created on Monday, 24 March 2014 Written by JIM RICHARDS, Associated Press
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Albert Pujols tripled and doubled to back a scoreless start by Garrett Richards in the Los Angeles Angels' 5-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
Richards, the No. 3 starter in a revamped rotation, gave the Angels the kind of pitching performance they've been looking for in his fourth spring start. He allowed three hits over 6 1-3 shutout innings in his fourth spring start, lowering his ERA to 3.50. The right-hander went 7-8 with a 4.16 ERA in 47 games, including 17 starts, during his first full season with the Angels in 2013.
"I got ahead of guys," Richards said. "The early ground balls were nice. ... I'm just building momentum with each start. The guys are going to put up runs. My job is to keep them in games."
After a slow start, Pujols brought his spring average up to .326 with two extra-base hits in two at-bats. Josh Hamilton had two hits in three at-bats with two RBIs.
Pujols tripled to right-center in the first to score Mike Trout. Hamilton's grounder drove in Pujols, who also doubled in the fifth to set up Hamilton's sacrifice fly.
"I liked the drive to right-center, let's just put it that way," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I liked the 0-2 (count) at-bat (by Hamilton) that got Albert in from third.
"(Hamilton has) worked very hard. He knows he has a way to go before he's locked in."
Cleveland starter Zach McAllister rebounded from a poor outing with six competitive innings. He allowed three runs and six hits with a walk and three strikeouts. McCallister gave up six runs and nine hits against San Francisco in his previous game. The right-hander went 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA last year.
Ian Stewart homered for the Angels off Josh Outman in the eighth.
Scioscia liked what he saw from Richards on Sunday.
"When he stays within his delivery that ball comes out of his hand hot," Scioscia said. "He was very consistent with his delivery."
Newly acquired Angels' left-hander Jose Alvarez allowed three hits and struck out five in 3 1-3 shutout innings in a minor league game in Tempe on Sunday.
Alvarez was acquired from Detroit earlier in the week in the deal that sent Andrew Romine to Detroit and is a long shot to land a spot at the back of the rotation.
"We want him to get comfortable and we'll evaluate where he fits in," said Scioscia, who is dealing with injuries to relievers Sean Burnett and Dane De La Rosa.
Before Sunday's game, the Angels released first baseman Carlos Pena, catcher Yorvit Torrealba and corner infielder Chad Tracy.
Pena figured to have a strong shot at making the club coming into camp as Pujols' backup at first, but hit just .139 with five hits in 36 at-bats and 14 strikeouts this spring.