The Los Angeles Angels realize what’s behind them and just how fast it’s moving. The more the Texas Rangers push them, the better the two-time defending AL West champions seem to play.
The Seattle Mariners? They’ve been left in the dust.
Kendry Morales hit an early three-run double and Jered Weaver pitched well into the seventh inning of the Angels‘ fifth victory in six games, 6-3 over the Mariners on Wednesday night.
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Juan Rivera added a late two-run homer, and Brian Fuentes bounced back from a blown save one night earlier to earn his AL-leading 40th save for the Angels, whose victory kept their AL West lead at 4 1/2 games over the surging Rangers, who finished a three-game sweep of Cleveland.
Los Angeles, which moved back to a season-best 28 games over .500 (83-55), will face Texas seven times down the stretch, which suits Weaver (15-5) just fine.
“It’s a good thing for us,” said Weaver, who never allowed the Mariners to have multiple runners on base. “Last year, we clinched early and didn’t really get that momentum going into the postseason (where they lost a first-round series to Boston). Knowing that Texas is playing well, we know we can’t just sit back and wait for something to happen. That’s good for us.”
Weaver added to his career-best victory total with another outstanding start just when the Angels needed an ace. The right-hander yielded seven hits, struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter while outpitching Ian Snell (4-2), whose four-start winning streak ended after Los Angeles’ four-run first inning.
Kenji Johjima and Jose Lopez hit solo homers for the Mariners, who have lost four straight and fallen 12 games behind the Angels – 9 1/2 behind Boston in the wild card race.
“We swung the bats,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. “I mean, to come into this series and say we were going to score the first four runs on all solo home runs, I wouldn’t have believed it. But we just couldn’t get anybody on before we got the big hit, and we just couldn’t manufacture runs.”
They also couldn’t repeat their success against Fuentes, who gave up Mike Sweeney‘s tying homer and walked two during his sixth blown save of the season Tuesday night. This time around, the All-Star closer came on with two runners in scoring position and no outs, but gave up only Sweeney’s RBI groundout before getting Ichiro Suzuki on a game-ending grounder.
“It’s nice to come out and be successful after you haven’t been,” Fuentes said. “But I’ve already washed that one out.”
Suzuki went 1 for 5 with a third-inning single, moving within four hits of his ninth consecutive 200-hit season. The Japanese star is in a 1-for-13 slump, however.
After Chone Figgins struck out to lead off the game, five straight Angels reached base. Torii Hunter drew a bases-loaded walk before Morales cleared the bases with a drive to left-center, giving the Cuban first baseman 98 RBIs – including a league-leading 48 since the All-Star break – in his first full major league season.
Snell shut out the Angels for the rest of his start, allowing six hits and five walks in 5 1-3 innings. He issued consecutive walks in the sixth before getting yanked, but reliever Jason Vargas got a double-play liner out of Jeff Mathis.
“I just told Johjima (after the first inning), ‘Let’s mix the pitches and stop throwing fastballs on the first pitch, because they seem like a very aggressive team,”‘ Snell said. “I just wanted to go at least six, but that team is a very disciplined hitting team. I mean, look at their lineup. There’s probably one guy in their lineup tonight that wasn’t hitting .290.”
Rivera connected in the eighth inning for his 22nd homer, albeit his first in September. The homer was the Angels‘ second in 68 innings.
Lopez had three hits in his fourth straight multihit game, improving to 9 for 17 in that stretch. … Mariners SS Jack Wilson sat out with the flu. The club plans to send him back home to Seattle to squelch the risk of passing it around the clubhouse. … Wakamatsu reversed his plan for Friday’s series opener at Texas, starting Brandon Morrow instead of Luke French. Wakamatsu wants French in the bullpen and Morrow back with the Mariners, who will recall him from Triple-A Tacoma. … Weaver is 5-0 in six career home starts against Seattle.