With his team's playoff hopes extinguished, the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout can focus exclusively on putting the final touches on his AL MVP candidacy.
After one of his best performances of the season, Trout will seek to keep making his case in Tuesday night's road game against the Seattle Mariners.
Los Angeles (89-71) entered this season with sky-high expectations after spending around $330 million to sign three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols and left-hander C.J. Wilson. The Angels, however, couldn't overcome a 6-14 start to the season and a 5-13 funk to begin August.
Los Angeles earned its eighth win in 10 games Monday, 8-4 in the series opener, but was officially eliminated from the postseason chase with Oakland's 4-3 victory over Texas.
"It's tough. It's not a good feeling," Trout said. "We had one goal coming into the spring, and that was to get to the playoffs. We couldn't achieve that goal."
Trout tied a career high with four hits and drove in three runs to lead his club to its seventh win in eight games at Safeco Field this season. That boosted his average to .325 and put him four points behind Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for the AL batting title.
The rookie outfielder also has a major league-best 48 stolen bases, two shy of becoming the third player in MLB history with at least 50 in one season along with 30 or more home runs.
"He's one of the best young hitters I've ever seen, arguably one of the best young player of all-time," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.
Trout and Cabrera are considered the top candidates for MVP, but the Tigers slugger has helped his cause by moving into position to win the majors' first Triple Crown since 1967.
While trying to burnish his resume, Trout will attempt to help the Angels reach 90 wins for first time since they finished 97-65 in 2009 - the last year they reached the playoffs.
Dan Haren (12-12, 4.32 ERA) will try to do his part by earning his third win in as many starts at Safeco this year. He recorded his only shutout of the season there - a four-hitter with a career-high 14 strikeouts May 24 - and gave up one unearned run over seven innings Aug. 31.
The right-hander, though, will look to avoid losing to Hisashi Iwakuma (8-5, 3.32) for the second straight start.
Seattle's rookie right-hander gave up two runs over six innings in a 9-4 win over the Angels on Thursday while Haren allowed three over 5 1-3. The win was one of four in 17 games for the Mariners (73-87), but the sixth in nine starts for Iwakuma, who is 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his three against the Angels.
"I've figured out who they are and I know how to pitch against them," Iwakuma told the team's website through an interpreter. "I'm very comfortable against them."
Trout, hitting .370 over his last six games at Safeco, is 1 for 9 with two strikeouts against Iwakuma.
Seattle's Justin Smoak is batting .400 with five homers over his last 15 games but is 3 for 17 (.176) with six strikeouts all-time versus Haren.