Scioscia goes deep into bench in Angels’ loss to Mariners

The Salt Lake Bees outlasted Felix Hernandez on Thursday night. Who would have guessed?

A night after clinching the AL West, the Angels rested their regulars and utilized their September call-ups in their finale against the Seattle Mariners. Oddly enough, it wasn’t a reserve who made the key mistake in the game; It was setup man Kevin Jepsen who gave up a three-run home run to Logan Morrison in the ninth, ultimately taking the loss in the Mariners’ 3-1 win. 

But for Jepsen, this was just another outing. For some of the lineup and even for starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc, it wasn’t as much a spot start as it was an audition for a spot on the playoff roster. 

Manager Mike Scioscia said there was an internal roster meeting that had taken place following the clinching win. Winning out for the sake of home field advantage is the priority, but along the way the staff will be making evaluations.

"It’s good to see some of these guys because not only are they getting a chance to play but they’re trying to see if there’s a role for them moving forward with us," Scioscia said. "I thought a couple guys out there did some things well and some guys struggled with a couple things."

The lineup was made up of some usual platoon suspects – Efren Navarro, Gordon Beckham, Hank Conger – but was mostly comprised of call-ups from Triple-A Salt Lake. They hung in there against Hernandez, who currently owns the second-best ERA in baseball, but only a few stood out.

"They played hard, no doubt about it," Scioscia said. "We didn’t get many good looks at Felix early but we had some opportunities. We loaded the bases in the eighth and just couldn’t get the hit. But all in all, I thought those guys were scrappy, they gave us a chance to win."

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Brennan Boesch made the most of his start, going 2-for-3 with an intentional walk and a sliding catch in right field. Navarro flashed the leather at first but flew out with the bases loaded in the eighth. 

LeBlanc did not factor into the decision, leaving with the game still scoreless in the sixth, but showed far better command than he did in his last start. The right-hander went 5.1 scoreless innings, scattering just three hits while working both sides of the plate and mixing speeds effectively. 

"Wade made some adjustments from the start he had against the Marlins earlier," Scioscia said. "Everthing worked, everything played off of each other and it was a really good game for Wade. I think that his ability to change speeds and pitch to contact is one of the reasons why he did so well."

LeBlanc was brought up from Triple-A for another audition of sorts late last month after Garrett Richards was injured. He failed to impress in his one start and was sent back down until rosters expanded. He was told he was starting only Thursday morning and the understudy performance was enough to earn him another start in five days. 

"We had talked about it a little last night and made the decision this morning," Scioscia said. "Wade came through. There’s nothing you can fault Wade with tonight."