SEATTLE -- It felt like a postseason game at sold-out T-Mobile Park with the Mariners angling for their first playoff appearance in 20 years, but the Angels leaned on their youth to play the role of spoilers in the series opener on Friday night.
Lefty José Suarez threw five strong innings, rookie center fielder Brandon Marsh hit a key two-run double in the third inning and reliever José Quijada escaped a pivotal jam in the seventh to lift the Angels to a 2-1 victory. It was a learning experience for the Angels' youngsters to play in a hostile environment on the road, especially with their aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014 next year. The Angels' victory knocked Seattle into a tie with Toronto a game behind Boston for the second AL Wild Card spot, with two games left to play.
“It was a classic game,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Our guys got that opportunity to feel what it's like to go to the playoffs. It definitely had that vibe to it.”
Suarez, 23, capped a strong third season in the Majors by allowing one run on three hits and two walks, with five strikeouts. He finishes the year with a 3.75 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings.
It's been quite the turnaround for the former top prospect, as he entered the season with a combined 7.99 ERA in 83 1/3 innings in his first two years in the Majors. His changeup has developed into a plus-pitch and he used it to his advantage yet again, throwing it 27 times and getting seven swings and misses -- plus two double-play grounders -- with it.
Much like fellow lefty Patrick Sandoval, Maddon said Suarez did enough this season to be part of their rotation plans next year.
"It would be his job to lose,” Maddon said. “We like what he's done a lot."
The lone run Suarez allowed came in the second inning, when he struck out the first two batters he faced before allowing a single to Abraham Toro and an RBI double to Jarred Kelenic. The Angels looked like they had Toro out at home plate, but David Fletcher's throw home was off, allowing the Mariners to take an early lead.
Suarez, though, rebounded and was satisfied both with his outing and how he fared overall this season.
"I'm really happy,” Suarez said through an interpreter. “I wanted to go out, do my job and be part of the rotation. I'm really happy with how things went. I feel happy with my performance all year. That’s what I was working for. It feels good looking back at it. I feel like I did my job."
The Angels came right back in the third, as they rallied against lefty Marco Gonzales, who needed 34 pitches to get out of the inning. Marsh, 23, showed why he's been touted as one of the club's top prospects by providing the big hit with a two-run, opposite-field double to give the Angels a lead they would never relinquish.
The Mariners were primed to tie it up in the seventh when Mike Mayers allowed a leadoff triple to Luis Torrens and a walk to Toro, but Quijada came in and struck out all three batters he faced to escape the jam. It was a big moment for Quijada, who has a 4.88 ERA this year, but has struck out 37 strikeouts in 24 innings and could be one of the club’s primary lefty relievers next year. It was also his second straight outing coming in with runners on first and third and nobody out only to strike out three consecutive batters, which he did on Wednesday against the Rangers.
"That's twice for Quijada in the last couple days, with first and third and nobody out and six strikeouts, that's impressive," Maddon said. "When he came in, he was impressed with the atmosphere. I think he liked it. He came in with a little smirk on his face, and I thought, 'He's gonna be OK.' But I wasn't expecting that."