Walker stalls Angels' playoff chase in Seattle
SEATTLE -- Taijuan Walker pitched seven innings of one-run ball and his offense erupted for six runs in the seventh inning, helping the Mariners pull away from the Angels for a 10-1 rout at Safeco Field on Monday night.
The Angels' loss came on the heels of a five-run, ninth-inning meltdown against the first-place Astros on Sunday and dropped them to 72-71, 4 1/2 games back in the American League West and four back of the Rangers for the second AL Wild Card spot.
"We turned the page on that," Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun said of Sunday's loss. "This is a brand new series for us. Tough one, but we still have two more against these guys."
Walker scattered just four hits, walked none, struck out seven and allowed only one runner to reach scoring position in the series opener, winning his 11th game and dropping his ERA to 4.56.
The Mariners took a 3-1 lead off Garrett Richards in the second, getting a two-run shot from Seth Smith and scoring another run on a wild pitch. Smith added an RBI double off the center-field fence in the fifth and Seattle (70-75) got three run-scoring doubles to center field in the seventh, by Robinson Cano, Mark Trumbo and Ketel Marte.
"You want it all to come together," Smith said after the Mariners improved to 9-4 in September. "You want the pitching to be there and the offense to be there at the same time. That's how you win baseball games. We've been doing that a lot lately, getting some good outings from our starters and good bullpen work and putting the barrel on the ball and scoring some runs, so that's how you win games, and that's what we're trying to do."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Smith cranks it up: The Mariners' right fielder has struggled at the plate of late, going 2-for-18 in the first seven games of this homestand and batting just .211 with two homers in 43 games since the All-Star break. But Smith ripped a two-run blast off Richards to key Seattle's three-run second, driving a 2-0 fastball for his 11th home run of the season on a shot projected at 408 feet by Statcast™. Smith also laced an RBI double off the wall in center in a 2-for-5 night with a season-high three RBIs.
"Seth is swinging it," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "He had a little lull there but he's starting to come back and swing the bat extremely well for us."
Brain cramp: Richards broke to first base way too late on Shawn O'Malley's chopper to the right side in the bottom of the second, allowing the Mariners' center fielder to easily reach on an infield single while Trumbo went to third. Soon after that, Richards uncorked his 15th wild pitch of the season, allowing Trumbo to score and giving Seattle a 3-1 lead. Richards settled down after that 39-pitch inning, retiring eight of his next nine, but couldn't pitch into the sixth.
"I kind of spaced for a second," Richards said. "I didn't think it was going to be that far off the bag. It just looked like a high chopper to first base, but it kind of took me out of my game for a second."
Cano a-go: Cano's two-run double kick-started Seattle's seventh-inning outburst as he took advantage of reliever Cory Rasmus' concern with pinch-runner James Jones at first base. Rasmus threw over five times and attempted one pitchout after the speedster pinch-ran for Nelson Cruz. Cano then drove a 1-2 changeup into center to score Kyle Seager from third and Jones from first as the ball scooted past Mike Trout to the warning track. Cano went 2-for-3 with a walk and has now hit .327 with 15 doubles, 12 homers and 41 RBIs over his last 65 games to hike his average to .280.
"There's no defense for speed, and you can't coach it. It's nice to have," McClendon said of Jones' impact on Cano's at-bat. "We've got three guys in the lineup right now that run extremely well. Jones, Marte and O'Malley. They create havoc and it's nice to have them on base when our big boys are up. That means they're going to get good pitches to hit."
Not much doing: The Angels started the second inning with back-to-back singles and scored on an ensuing double-play groundout by Erick Aybar, but couldn't do much else the rest of the night. They managed only two other hits and didn't get another runner in scoring position. The Angels have now gone five consecutive games without scoring more than three runs, largely a product of Trout and Albert Pujols both struggling.
Angels catching prospect Jett Bandy made his Major League debut in the eighth inning, coming in for defense after the Mariners pulled away in the seventh. Bandy came to bat in the ninth, worked the count full and flied out to right. The eighth inning also marked Kyle Kubitza's first appearance at second base in pro ball. The Angels have been working him out there lately to see if he can be an option there next season.
"He was just making sure I was OK. He's a class act. Last year he was great to me. All those guys were. The fact he'd come in during a tense game and check on me is very nice. They're really good people over there." -- O'Malley, who played with the Angels last September, after Trout came in from center field after he was hit in the temple by a pickoff throw at second base and was down on the ground for several minutes in the second inning
"I think he has gotten on that roll at times this year. He's pitched some pretty good baseball. Maybe his ERA might be up a little bit, but internally the numbers are still good. It may not be the same roll he was on last year, but he's pitched well for us. It just didn't happen tonight." -- Scioscia, on Richards this year compared to last year
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
McClendon successfully challenged a safe call on a Walker pickoff attempt on Trout at first base in the third inning. Trout initially was ruled to have reached the bag before Logan Morrison tagged Trout's shoulder, but the replay official overturned the call and Trout was the third out of the frame.
Angels: Nick Tropeano (1-2, 5.66 ERA) gets his fifth start of the season in place of an injured Matt Shoemaker, who's dealing with a right forearm strain, at 7:10 p.m. PT on Tuesday. Tropeano, 25, gave up three runs on eight hits and a walk in 4 1/3 innings against the Dodgers last Monday.
Mariners: Felix Hernandez (17-8, 3.49) will go for his AL-leading 18th win and fourth against the Angels in Tuesday night's battle. Hernandez is 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 27 innings in four meetings with the Halos, with the only two runs scored on Trout homers.
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