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Pujols picks up his first Angels RBI

ANAHEIM -- Coming into this season, the Angels had high expectations of what a new lineup and improved rotation could do for their chances of winning more games.

Neither performed Sunday. Ervin Santana struggled with his command, and the Angels, unable to capitalize with runners in scoring position, lost the rubber match of their three-game series against the Royals, 7-3, in front of 32,227 at Angel Stadium.

Santana got off to a rocky start, giving up three runs in the first inning. After hitting Alcides Escobar and giving up a stolen base, Santana surrendered an RBI single to Eric Hosmer and a two-run home run to Billy Butler that was just out of reach for center fielder Peter Bourjos.

In the final two games of the series, the Halos gave up five runs in the first inning, keeping them from putting any pressure on the Royals.

"We need to set the games up on our terms better, and we will," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have a better club than what we showed the last two games. We'll get it going."

Missing a golden opportunity in the third inning with the bases loaded and none out, the Halos were only able to plate one run. Torii Hunter grounded out to first with none out, scoring Erick Aybar from third. However, Vernon Wells struck out and Kendrys Morales grounded out, allowing Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez to escape the jam.

Wells had difficulty coming through with runners on again in the fifth, grounding out to end the inning with men on first and second.

Going 0-for-13 in the game with runners in scoring position, the Angels' 4-5-6 hitters went 1-for-14 with just two RBIs. That was especially frustrating for Scioscia, who saw his 1-2-3 hitters get on base nine times.

"We needed to get on base and drive the ball to get back into it, and they had some good arms in the 'pen that didn't let us," Scioscia said. "We had opportunities and just couldn't get it done.

"Albert [Pujols] is going to create for guys behind him. Today we didn't get it done with parts of our lineup. We didn't have the game on our terms. We struggled early and couldn't get guys in."

Santana surrendered another home run in the fifth inning, giving up a two-run blast to Hosmer on the first pitch to hand the Royals a 5-2 lead.

Santana went 5 2/3 innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on seven hits for the loss. Having difficulty commanding his pitches, the righty threw 96, 53 for strikes.

Santana struggled particularly with his fastball, putting him behind in a lot of counts. The right-hander also said he felt a little out of sync with his delivery.

"I was behind in most counts," Santana said. "It wasn't easy to get out of jams like that. I felt the slider and changeup were OK, but when I tried to throw a sinker, it wasn't doing too much."

Trying to get back into the game in the eighth, Wells led off with a homer to left, before a single by Mark Trumbo and a double by Chris Iannetta put runners on second and third for Bourjos with one out. However, Bourjos struck out and Aybar grounded back to the pitcher to end the eighth. It showed once again that clutch hitting was the Angels' Achilles' heel the entire day.

"We knew there'd be a lot of hype, and they've got a phenomenal team. We knew that it would be a big task and a big challenge," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You try not to say this is a big test for us because this is the first three games of the year, but we stood up and played them extremely well and I'm proud of that."

The Angels were able to take advantage of Sanchez's wildness in the bottom of the first, when a single by Howie Kendrick and a wild pitch put Kendrick at third with one out. Pujols then knocked him in with a groundout to third, marking his first RBI of the season.

The team now looks to its six-game road trip in Minnesota and New York to get back on the right track and make necessary adjustments.

"The talent is there. Who is to say we can't go on a nice run," Trumbo said. "Everyone is swinging the bat well, we just aren't hitting with runners in scoring position.

"We have no panic or urgency. We have had quite a few good swings, just not many runs to show for it." Comments