SEATTLE -- Mariners closer Fernando Rodney was noticeably erratic, walking the first two batters he faced in the ninth inning to put the tying run on base. Due up was the fifth spot, where Josh Hamilton -- with his .500 batting average and team-leading six walks -- would come up with the chance to give the Angels the lead with one swing of his hot bat.
Except, he was gone.
Hamilton injured his left thumb two innings earlier, while sliding headfirst into first base in a feeble attempt to beat out an infield groundout, then he noticed how difficult it was to throw, tested his swing out in the batting cage and regretfully told Mike Scioscia he couldn't bat in the ninth inning.
Three batters later, Rodney had gotten out of the jam and the Angels had lost, 5-3.
"It sucks," Hamilton said. "It sucks bad. I just figured it was better to get someone up there who can take a full hack and get after it than to go up there gingerly."
X-rays on Hamilton's thumb were negative, but he'll have an MRI exam on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Angels will try to figure out their up-and-coming division rivals, who outscored them by 18 runs in a three-game sweep at Angel Stadium to kick off the season and then beat them again in front of a sold-out Safeco Field crowd in their home opener.
Albert Pujols quieted 45,661 fans with a first-inning two-run homer, giving the 34-year-old first baseman 1,501 RBIs, and the Angels took a 3-0 lead when David Freese followed it up with a homer to straightaway center field.
But four Mariners relievers -- Yoervis Medina, Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen and Rodney -- shut the Angels out for four innings after starter James Paxton exited with a lat strain behind his left shoulder, and Corey Hart carried the offense with two big home runs.
Hart, who missed the entire 2013 season due to microfracture surgeries on his knees, hit a towering three-run homer off Hector Santiago in the third inning to give the Mariners their first lead, then tacked on a crucial insurance run with a solo shot to center field off Fernando Salas in the seventh.
"That was great," said Hart, who entered batting .167. "So many guys on this team have been chipping in, and I haven't been one of them. So it was nice to find contact tonight and be able to help out. I was getting kind of tired of watching everybody else help out."
The four-run third inning that cost the Angels the game should've ended with no damage.
With two outs and none on, Santiago struck out shortstop Brad Miller, but his fastball was well outside and skipped past catcher Chris Iannetta for a wild pitch that allowed Miller to reach. Robinson Cano then walked, Justin Smoak -- 6-for-13 with two homers and seven RBIs at Angel Stadium last week -- hit an RBI single to put the Mariners on the board, and then Hart's big blow followed.
"That sucks," Santiago said. "You get that third out and you're out of the inning. But right after that you should get back to work, and I kind of didn't."
The Angels had a chance six innings later, with two on, none out and only a two-run deficit. But Hamilton's pinch-hitter, Ian Stewart, and Howie Kendrick both struck out, Raul Ibanez flied out to left field, Rodney got the save and Hamilton could only watch.
"We sent some guys up to the plate we thought were pretty good hitters," Scioscia said. "Give him credit. He got through it. But naturally, you'd like to have Josh up there in that situation."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.