LeBlanc, reserves edged out by Felix, Mariners
Lefty impresses as Angels rest regulars a night after winning title
ANAHEIM -- It wasn't supposed to go like this on Thursday night.
The Wild Card-contending Mariners and their potential Cy Young winner were supposed to steamroll the Angels' second-stringers and their replacement journeyman starting pitcher. Instead, Wade LeBlanc held his own against Felix Hernandez before Seattle won the battle of the bullpens, 3-1, at Angel Stadium.
"Wade came through," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Nothing you can fault Wade with what he did tonight."
Logan Morrison's two-out, three-run home run in the ninth inning handed the Angels just their third loss in their last 15 games, and cut their lead over the Orioles for the top record in the American League to 2 1/2 games.
LeBlanc took the mound in place of Angels ace Jered Weaver, who will start Saturday and once more before taking the ball for Game 1 of the AL Division Series. LeBlanc found out about his start just hours before game time.
"That's the life of a swing man, long reliever, spot starter," LeBlanc said. "Any time they want to give me the ball, I'm ready for it."
The 30-year-old left-hander threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up just three hits. It was the sixth scoreless start of his career and his first since June 2010.
"I think he used both sides of the plate with his fastball," Scioscia said. "Had a cut fastball also, threw a breaking ball here and there, and his changeup -- everything worked. Everything played off each other. That was a really good game for Wade."
It was LeBlanc's first start since allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings against Miami on Aug. 25, although he had worked five games in relief. With Thursday's performance, he has posted a 0.77 ERA in 11 2/3 innings since that start.
"Since then, I'm starting to settle in a little bit, get a little more comfortable mechanically and then pitching to my strengths more than trying to force the issue with certain pitches in certain counts," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc's impressive outing earned him another start as he replaces the injured Matt Shoemaker. It was his longest appearance in nearly four months and he said he "felt good" after throwing 72 pitches.
Hernandez, though, was even better. Seattle's ace breezed through the Angels' backups, scattering three hits and striking out 11 in seven scoreless innings. It was the sixth time this season he struck out 10 or more.
One night after clinching their first AL West title in five years, the Angels sat all of their regular starters. Only three Angels in the lineup had more than 40 starts this season.
"My mindset today was just attack the hitters and play it like it was Trout, Pujols and Hamilton in the lineup," Hernandez said.
Brennan Boesch went 2-for-3 with a stolen base against Hernandez, while the rest of the lineup went 1-for-21.
The final nine games could play out as a tryout period for some Angels reserves as the club attempts to lock up a playoff spot. Boesch, Efren Navarro, C.J. Cron and Gordon Beckham are battling for a postseason-roster spot, and all four started on Thursday night.
"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 those guys were scrappy. They gave us a chance to win."