Albert Pujols couldn't make it happen.
The bases were loaded in the fifth inning for the Los Angeles Angels when Pujols stepped in against Tampa Bay rookie Matt Moore. The 23-year-old left-hander hung in there and got the three-time NL MVP to pop up for the second out.
That was Moore's seminal moment in his 3-0 victory over C.J. Wilson and the Angels on Saturday. But the Rays didn't escape the jam until former Angels catcher Jose Molina chased down a 1-0 pitch to Mark Trumbo that broke off his glove and threw to Moore at the plate for a sweep tag on Bobby Wilson as he slid in headfirst.
TV replays showed that Moore's glove dusted the plate and missed the runner, leading to a brief argument between manager Mike Scioscia and umpire Phil Cuzzi.
"We had a great opportunity there, but Moore made some tough pitches to Albert," Scioscia said. "Then the wild pitch, we didn't get the call at home. So it's a tough way to get out of that inning. We definitely had some momentum on our side. Those guys got out of it."
C.J. Wilson (9-7) threw 121 pitches in 6 2-3 innings, allowing three runs — two earned — and four hits. He struck out seven and walked three. The All-Star lefty is 0-3 with a 4.23 ERA over his last six starts after going 5-0 with a 1.30 ERA in his previous seven. It was his fourth start since blister problems prevented him from pitching in the All-Star game.
"In that month, there's no doubt he's pitched well enough to get a win. He did tonight, too," Scioscia said. "It's been one pitch here, one pitch there. Offensively if we're not able to do some of the things on a given day, you pitch with your back against the wall a little bit. But tonight he pitched a strong game."
The Angels also mounted a threat in the fourth after Moore hit Pujols with a 1-2 pitch and Trumbo singled. But Howie Kendrick struck out, Alberto Callaspo lined out to left field and Vernon Wells hit a grounder to third. Wells played his first game since May 20, when he tore a ligament in his right thumb while stealing second base at San Diego and had to undergo surgery.
"That's a very tough lineup with a lot of good hitters. So to find myself in only two jams tonight, I consider that a very good win for sure," Moore said. "I was fortunate to be able to get ahead of some guys early and let my other pitches work."
Moore (7-7) struck out six to increase his season total to 112, second-most among rookies behind Texas' Yu Darvish. He pitched a career-high eight innings in his previous start and retired his final 17 batters in a 2-1 loss to Seattle last Sunday. Moore is 6-2 with a 3.32 ERA in his last 10 outings.
"I liked Matt's tempo all night," manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought he had a good look about him. Getting through that fifth inning was incredibly big. He had a good fastball and also a really good hook. That game tonight was more reminiscent what we saw last year at the end of the season and in the playoffs, where he had pretty much everything going."
Fernando Rodney worked a perfect ninth for his 29th save in 30 attempts, dropping his ERA to 0.79 in 46 appearances. The 10-year veteran, who struggled quite a bit during two seasons with the Angels before signing a one-year, $2 million contract with Tampa Bay in January, pitched at the "Big A" for the first time since Sept. 2, 2011, when he failed to retire any of his five batters and allowed four runs against Minnesota.
"Command was a little bit of a problem when he was with us, but he's obviously worked that out and is just having a terrific season," Scioscia said.
Back in the visiting clubhouse, Rodney was all smiles through that sinister-looking goatee of his following perhaps his most satisfying save of the year.
"I was happy to close the game in this place and show that team that I'm a different pitcher than I was the last couple of years when I was here," said Rodney, who had a career-high 37 saves in 2009 with Detroit. "I couldn't find my spot here when I tried to close. I don't know what the reason is, but this year is different and I have a lot of confidence."
The Angels squandered a chance to reduce Texas' four-game lead over them in the AL West race and fell into third place — a half-game behind the surging Oakland Athletics, who have won 18 of 21. Zack Greinke, acquired by Los Angeles in a trade with Milwaukee on Friday, will make his debut with his new club in Sunday's series finale against Jeremy Hellickson.
"He's a Cy Young Award winner and he's had tremendous success, so it's pretty nice to bring a guy into a rotation that we thought was already pretty good," Angels ace Jered Weaver said. "We had a couple of battles when he was with Kansas City, and he's a competitor."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.