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LAA@SEA: Haren stymies Mariners over seven innings

SEATTLE -- Torii Hunter had four hits, giving him 10 over a span of only three games. Dan Haren turned in what was probably his best outing in three months. Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales stayed hot. The Angels won for the fourth straight time, defeating the Mariners by a 9-1 score. And a crazed fan, wearing nothing but a red Speedo and sneakers, dashed through Safeco Field security guards for a solid two minutes.

But once again, all everyone wanted to talk about after Friday's game was Mike Trout, the five-tool 21-year-old whose jaw-dropping skills demand attention even in blowout games when he records one single and strikes out twice.

On this particular night, it was his speed.

Trout scored three times in the series opener against the Mariners. He spent the first month of the season in the Minor Leagues and one month still remains in 2012 -- that part bears reminding -- but already he's scored three-plus runs in a game 10 times, the most since Sammy Sosa did it 11 times in 2001. His total for the season is already 106, which easily leads the Majors (15 more than the second-place Ian Kinsler of Texas) and is now an Angels rookie record (topping the 103 set by Devon White in 1987).

Oh, and he stole his Major League-leading 42nd base.

"Speed kills," Hunter said. "You've heard that saying for a thousand years -- speed kills. When you get a guy like that with speed, and he gets on base, he just causes havoc, whether it's with the pitchers, whether it's with the outfielders, he causes havoc, and that's what we love about Trout. That speed he has is unbelievable. You can't teach it. He was born with it. That's a blessing."

That was most evident in the top of the second, when Trout caused an errant throw by third baseman Kyle Seager on his own grounder, caused shortstop Brendan Ryan to get confused on Hunter's grounder up the middle, then scored from second when Ryan booted Pujols' grounder.

"He's an impact player," Mariners skipper Eric Wedge said. "What he does at home plate, what he does in center field and what he does on the basepaths, it's game-changing and you saw that again tonight."

The Angels saw something else again: early runs and a solid start.

On Friday, Haren gave up only unearned one run in seven frames and the offense used a three-run homer by Morales to score first-inning runs for the fourth straight game.

While sweeping a three-game set against the Red Sox at home, and taking the series opener in Seattle, the Angels have totaled 11 runs in the first inning. Their starters -- Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Zack Greinke and Haren, respectively -- have combined to post a 3.00 ERA while pitching at least six innings each time.

Thanks to that, the Angels have kept pace with the American League Wild Card-leading Orioles and Athletics, two surprising, red-hot teams that have kept the Halos 3 1/2 games from the final playoff spot.

"We talk about trying to get the games on our terms, and part of that is trying to set it up on the defensive end, give our offense a chance to go -- we got started early tonight again -- and then keep pushing the action on the offensive side," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We matched up some good offensive baseball with a great effort from Dan. It's a great way to go."

Haren wasn't particularly dominant -- as he was on May 24, when he shut out the Mariners with 14 strikeouts the last time he pitched here -- but he was awfully sharp, scattering five hits, walking none and at one point retiring 12 straight batters.

Over a 42-game stretch that began July 3, the Angels' rotation had a 5.71 ERA and the team went 17-25, causing them to lose valuable ground in the standings. Over the last 10 games, though, starters have posted a 3.56 ERA as the team has gone 8-2.

Haren, now 9-10 with a 4.58 ERA in a season he hopes is starting to turn around, said he "felt like my old self again."

"I felt really, really good today," he added. "I don't know what it was in particular. I've been tinkering with my mechanics for months, it seems like. But I've been messing with different release points and watching a lot of video. It's in there. I didn't just lose it all of a sudden. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction. I think I have five or so more starts, and if I make five real good starts, I think we'll be where we want to be."

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