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LAA@SEA: Elias holds Angels to two runs over five

SEATTLE -- Rookie left-hander Roenis Elias put together another solid five-inning start on Wednesday night, but the Mariners couldn't muster any offensive support as the Angels spoiled Seattle's early-season run with a 2-0 win at Safeco Field.

The Mariners managed just one hit off a trio of Angels pitchers, as Seattle was held to one hit or none for the 21st time in club history and first since July 20 at Houston.

Right-hander Garrett Richards gave up just the lone single to Abraham Almonte in his seven innings, then turned it over to the bullpen to finish off a tough night for the home team.

"Listen, when you run into a buzzsaw like that, where a guy's throwing 96, 97 and he's getting an 86- to 89-mph slider over for strikes, it's going to be a tough night," said Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon. "He just outdueled our guy."

Elias allowed just two runs -- on an Albert Pujols bolt -- in a 91-pitch outing. The 25-year-old Cuban surrendered four hits with one walk and two strikeouts and is 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA after his first two Major League outings.

The Mariners would have equaled the best eight-game start in franchise history with a win, but instead suffered their first loss in five games to the Halos this season and are now 5-3 going into Thursday's off-day.

After a lively Opening Night win in front of a sellout throng Tuesday, the Mariners' bats stayed silent for Wednesday's crowd of 16,437. Only Almonte's broken-bat single in the third dented the hit column, though Seattle did reach base four times on walks and twice on errors.

"He had good stuff today," said Almonte, who went 1-for-3 with a walk. "He had a little tough time commanding the fastball, but every time he threw it in the zone, he was tough to hit. The first at-bats he looked a little out of control. But after the second at-bat, he got better and better location, and it was a little tough."

Robinson Cano, who saw his average drop to .300 with an 0-for-4 night, gave credit to Richards, who has now thrown 14 1/3 shutout innings over his last two starts in Seattle.

"What can you say?" Cano said. "His fastball was moving a lot, and the guy throws 97 with sink. You have to give him credit. He never went down. He was 96-97 the whole way and his curveball was filthy, too."

The Mariners only got to third base once in the game as the 25-year-old Richards improved to 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA after two starts this year.

Pujols ripped his second two-run home run in as many nights with a blast to left field off Elias in the third inning to give the Halos an early lead. Pujols needs six more homers to become the 26th player in Major League history with 500 for a career.

"I felt good out there," said Elias, who had never even been to Seattle before the Mariners arrived this week for their opening homestand. "I made a bad pitch, it was a little high. But you have to give credit to Pujols. He prepared for a pitch like that and he got it."

Elias defected from Cuba in 2010 and has been working his way up in the Mariners organization since signing as a free agent in 2011 while playing in Mexico. He made the jump from Double-A to the Mariners rotation this year after a strong spring, coupled with injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and Brandon Maurer that thinned out the competition.

Walker threw five shutout innings for Double-A Jackson in a Minor League rehab start on Wednesday, with three hits, one walk and 10 strikeouts on 84 pitches. So he seems to be drawing close to his Seattle return, but the club put James Paxton on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, thus Elias' spot in the rotation seems secure for now.

"I think he should come away from this outing feeling good about himself," McClendon said. "He pitched pretty darn good tonight. He just ran into a guy that was a little better, but in no way was I disappointed with his outing. I look forward to his next start."

The Mariners bullpen had another strong showing as well, with rookie Dominic Leone throwing 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief after replacing Elias.

Joe Beimel gave up a pair of infield singles in the seventh before Yoervis Medina came on to get the third out and then threw a scoreless eighth as well, with Charlie Furbush finishing off the ninth.

The Mariners bullpen has allowed just one earned run in 12 2/3 innings over the last four games and has a 1.75 ERA for the season.

Angels closer Ernesto Frieri walked Justin Smoak with one out in the ninth, but then struck out Corey Hart and got Kyle Seager to ground out for his first save.

"It's good to win a game when you don't mash the ball offensively," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "We have to be that type of team. That was a good game, not only the win but how we got it done."

"It was a great pitcher's duel on both ends," McClendon said. "Their bullpen came in and did a nice job, our bullpen was exceptional. Our guys threw the ball extremely well. Our starter was good. It's just we came out on the losing end. That's the unfortunate part tonight."

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