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LAA@COL: Pujols drives in four against the Rockies

DENVER -- Behind their best offensive performance of the season, the Angels beat the Rockies, 11-5 on Saturday afternoon at Coors Field.

Some 1,300 miles away in the Bay Area, another victory: The Rangers fell to the Giants, 5-2, to move the Angels to three games back in the American League West -- the closest they've been since April 12. Their spring slump seems like forever ago, as the Angels (31-29) have won 13 of their last 17 games. They'll go for their third series sweep on Sunday.

"It's always good when we win games and the Rangers lose," said center fielder Mike Trout, who is hitting .750 in two games against the Rockies. "But we make sure to focus on ourselves, win our games and then whatever happens, happens."

The 11 runs were the most this season, and their 15 hits -- 10 off Rockies starter Jeff Francis (0-1) -- were also the most, done three times. Trout was again a terror to the Rockies, collecting three hits, driving in two runs, scoring three runs himself and stealing two bags, both of which came on back-to-back pitches in the fourth inning. With Albert Pujols at the plate, Trout stole second, then nabbed third. Pujols walked, Mark Trumbo grounded out and Trout scored to make the lead 7-2.

"Guys like hitting with a runner on second, rather than first. So when I get on, I'm trying to get to second -- or score," Trout said. "Putting pressure on a defense is always big."

The aggressive Angels made it difficult for Francis to get into any sort of groove. Making his first Major League start since requesting his release from Cincinnati, where he was with Triple-A Louisville, Francis gave up two runs in the first, three in the second, one in the third and two in the fourth, earning him the hook after 74 pitches (3 1/3 innings).

"Much like we were dealing with over the course of May, in three of the last four days we pitched a total of 9 2/3 innings out of our starter," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. "That's simply not going to work."

Angels starter Dan Haren (4-6) gave up four solo home runs. Pitching from the stretch, Haren was pretty good. The Rockies loaded the bases in the fourth inning, but Haren got Dexter Fowler to hit into a fielder's choice -- Will Nieves was thrown out at home by Pujols -- and then blew a fastball past Marco Scutaro to depart the inning unscathed.

"Dan had to make some pitches to get out of trouble, but it was a good offensive day," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

Don't consider Haren a fan of Coors Field. While most of the Angels are thrilled to see their hits fly further than usual -- "It's really fun playing here," Trout said early on Saturday -- Haren had a few gripes.

"It's a very difficult place to pitch," Haren said. "It's the same for both teams, but I couldn't imagine making half my starts here, that's for sure. I'm glad it's only one. It's not fun."

Haren was pulled after giving up his final home run, a sixth-inning blast by Chris Nelson. In 5 1/3 innings, he yielded 10 hits (his second most this year) and struck out four.

With the thin air playing dirty tricks on his offspeed pitches, Haren was glad the Angels provided ample run support.

"The ball doesn't do as much. My cutter was OK, but my splitter was awful and I couldn't control it," said Haren, whose four earned runs were the most since May 14. "I made the most of what I had. We scored a bunch of runs, so I was able to attack them."

The top three hitters in the Angels' lineup combined to go 8-for-11. Torii Hunter, hitting from the No. 2 hole for the second day in a row, had three hits and a walk. Pujols drove in four runs, including a two-run shot the opposite way off Guillermo Moscoso, widening the club's lead to 10-3 in the sixth. Since May 16, Pujols is hitting .322, with eight homers and 22 RBIs.

"Albert has been swinging the bat well the last month," Scioscia said. "Hopefully, we're seeing him in a comfort zone that'll carry him through the year. There's no doubt he's been attacking the ball much better, taking his walks when they come. That was a big home run today, especially that he drove it the other way."

The Angels have scored 24 combined runs in their last three games, their most productive three-game span of the season.

"We're out there having fun," Trout said. "It's exciting when you're winning, and the team chemistry is awesome right now."

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