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KC@LAA: Aybar clears the bases with a triple to right

ANAHEIM -- So much of the Angels' 2012 season centers on what Albert Pujols can do for them.

But on Opening Night -- a 5-0, late-surging win against the Royals in a sold-out Angel Stadium on Friday -- Pujols was mostly a spectator.

He watched as a Boeing C-17 flew above him during the opening ceremonies. Watched as Jered Weaver pitched brilliantly, hurling eight frames while striking out 10. And watched as the Angels offense finally came to life with four runs in the eighth before he even came to bat again.

In the end, Pujols' Angels debut went uneventfully -- 0-for-3 with a strikeout and an intentional walk.

Asked later about what memory would stick out most about his first game with his new team, the new first baseman smiled.

"The win," Pujols said. "And a great ceremony. You always remember that. And to close that out with a win is huge, because we had a lot of people that were ready for this day, and it finally arrived."

With Pujols on board, a lot of people -- Weaver included -- were ready for the Angels to showcase a formidable offense capable of producing several multirun innings.

In the bottom of the eighth, it finally arrived.

Silenced for most of this breezy night, the Angels' bats finally broke through against the Royals' bullpen in that inning, using six hits to plate five runs and give Weaver the much-deserved win in his season debut.

Weaver and Bruce Chen, who went six scoreless innings, practically matched each other pitch for pitch for most of the game, as both clubs combined for just seven hits heading into the bottom of the eighth.

But three straight singles from Kendrys Morales (playing in his first game since suffering a broken left ankle), Mark Trumbo (who previously made two errors at his new position of third base) and Chris Iannetta (the new catcher acquired to bring more offense to the position) off Aaron Crow loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth and set the stage.

"I started with that 0-2 pitch to Morales," Crow recalled. "I should've gone with a fastball instead of the slider, and it just kind of opened the floodgates."

With righty Greg Holland in the game, Peter Bourjos got an RBI infield single, Erick Aybar scorched a three-run triple down the right-field line and -- after Pujols was intentionally walked with first base open -- Torii Hunter dropped in a base hit to right field as the Angels pulled away.

"Those guys were going to come out swinging sooner or later," Weaver said, "and they did."

Pujols, playing in his first game since coming over on a $240 million contract, got a raucous standing ovation from the 44,106 in attendance, doffed his cap, then lined into a double play in the first, skied an infield popup in the fourth and struck out swinging in the seventh.

"I kept looking at my bat," Pujols said. "I was putting good barrels on it, and that's the way it goes. You try to put a good swing every at-bat, every pitch. You want to come through, but sometimes you don't. That's the way it goes. It's part of the game. It won't be the first time this year that I go 0-for-3, either."

The Angels -- a team that ranked 17th in the Majors in runs without him last season -- put just one runner in scoring position against Chen, who limited them to three hits and no walks.

But Weaver, making his first start since finishing second in Cy Young Award voting, scattered just four hits and issued no walks.

He gave up back-to-back singles in the third, then struck out the side to end the inning and begin a streak of 13 straight retired. He needed to throw 18 extra pitches after a couple of two-out errors by Trumbo, but still got out of those innings unscathed. And he ended the eighth with his 10th strikeout, becoming the third Angels pitcher to do that on Opening Day.

Weaver, as usual, lugged through Spring Training, putting up a 5.40 ERA in five starts.

Then he flipped the switch.

"It's much easier when the lights come on and it's Friday night and we have a packed house," Weaver said. "It's a much different environment from Spring Training, that's for sure."

The Angels have now won eight of their last nine Opening Day games. This latest one had a lot to do with their ace and very little to do with their slugger.

But Pujols walked away with positive thoughts about his debut.

"It was great. It's awesome," Pujols said of his first day. "They were excited. They couldn't wait until this day. Neither could we. We were looking forward to it, and it was great to come up with the win today. Weave did an unbelievable job out there to keep us in the game, and we ended up breaking through in the eighth inning. I'm glad he got the win." Comments