Mariners power past Angels behind big 9th inning home run
Logan Morrison hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning that broke a scoreless tie, and the Seattle Mariners boosted their wild-card hopes with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night.
With just their third win in nine games, the Mariners pulled within one game of the slumping Oakland Athletics for the second AL wild-card spot.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez struck out 11 during seven innings of three-hit ball while getting no decision.
Seattle awoke from 17 consecutive scoreless innings with a clutch ninth-inning burst against Kevin Jepsen (0-2).
Wade LeBlanc pitched three-hit ball into the sixth inning of his second start for the major league-leading Angels, who scratched ace Jered Weaver and fielded a lineup of reserves a day after clinching the AL West title.
After Kendrys Morales singled and pinch-runner James Jones advanced on Jepsen’s bad pickoff throw in the ninth, Morrison deposited a belt-high pitch into the left-field stands for his ninth homer.
Tom Wilhelmsen (3-2) escaped a bases-loaded jam of his own making in the eighth.
Fernando Rodney allowed Hank Conger’s homer in the ninth before finishing his 46th save.
Hernandez has pitched superbly in his four September starts as he tries to earn another Cy Young award, but the Mariners have given him little help at the plate, scoring just four total runs while Hernandez was in those four games.
The Angels have wrapped up their ninth division title, but they’re still playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Their lead over Baltimore for the majors’ best record is down to 2 1-2 games.
Manager Mike Scioscia rested most of his regular position players after the Angels partied into the wee hours to celebrate clinching their first division title since 2009. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Kole Calhoun and Erick Aybar all got the day off.
The Angels also pulled Weaver about six hours before game time, pushing his next start back to Saturday to put him in line to start the AL division series opener Oct. 2.
LeBlanc significantly improved on his only previous start for the Angels, a 7-1 loss to Miami on Aug. 25. LeBlanc cleared waivers and returned for the Angels’ postseason push, making five solid relief appearances before striking out three Mariners and walking none.
Angels: Cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton has a new pain in his upper body, and he sat out for the 13th time in 14 games. Scioscia hopes the injury is minor.
Mariners: Taijuan Walker (1-2, 2.96) traveled early to Houston to prepare for the opener of a key series against Brad Peacock and the Astros.
Angels: Hector Santiago (5-8, 3.55) opens Los Angeles’ final home series against the Texas Rangers and Lisalverto Bonilla.