The Angels score three runs in the eighth inning to salvage the series finale 5-3.
With 19 games remaining, it’s not just about the Mariners winning games, though they need to do that to give themselves a chance in a crazy-and-crowded American League wild-card race.
But it’s also about winning games on days that teams ahead of them lose.
On Sunday, Seattle failed to capitalize in that situation and to complete a sweep of one of those teams ahead of them in the wild-card race.
The Mariners’ top two set-up men — Nick Vincent and Marc Rzepczynski — struggled again, leading to a game-deciding, three-run eighth inning from the Angels in a 5-3 loss.
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With the Twins losing earlier in the day, the Mariners were poised to move to two games back in the wild-card standings. Instead at 71-72, they remain three games back with four teams head of them. They close out the homestand with a 5-4 record and head out on a seven-game road trip, starting with four games against the Rangers.
“Pretty good series, but it would have been nice to get this game today,” manager Scott Servais said. “It was an important game.”
Brought in with the score tied 2-2, Vincent gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Ben Revere. After a sac bunt from Brandon Phillips moved Revere to second, the Mariners immediately issued an intentional walk to Mike Trout, who had homered earlier in the game.
In previous games before this weekend, that move meant that Albert Pujols would be coming to the plate and a double play was a possibility. But following the trade with the Tigers, Justin Upton came to the plate and a double was the reality. Upton smacked a cutter over the middle of the plate to left-center that scored both runners and proved to be the winning runs.
“I didn’t make any good pitches,” Vincent said. “Revere got on base with the single and when guys get on base they have a chance to score. I made a bad pitch to Upton. And that’s that.”
Later in the inning with Upton on third, Rzepczynski uncorked a wild pitch that bounced off Mike Zunino and onto the infield grass. Upton sprinted home for a 5-2 lead.
While Vincent has basically been unhittable much of the season, the Angels have given him all sorts of trouble. Following the three runs charged to him for the outing, he’s allowed seven runs in five innings and 12 hits in 23 at-bats vs. the Angels this season.
“They’re a very scrappy team, and they’re a team that’s going to make contact,” he said. “I’ve got to be a guy that opens the strike zone a little bit and not throw so many strikes because they are definitely going to put the ball in play.”
Seattle trimmed the lead to 5-3 on Jean Segura’s solo homer to start the bottom of the eighth, but never threatened after that.
The Mariners wasted a solid outing from starter Erasmo Ramirez. The diminutive right-hander pitched 62/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. It was the sixth straight start that Ramirez has given Seattle six complete innings.
But his outing ended on a sour note. Given a 2-1 lead, Ramirez couldn’t hold it through seven full innings.
After getting two quick outs to start the seventh, he fell behind 2-0 to Luis Valbuena. The all-or-nothing Valbuena had done nothing in his first two at-bats. But he got all of the 2-0 pitch at the bottom of the strike zone, golfing a solo homer to center to tie the score at 2-2.
“I wasn’t worried about walking him,” Ramirez said. “It was already the seventh, and I didn’t want to miss a pitch right in the middle. But it was too close to the strike zone. It was a mistake and he made me pay.”
Ramirez’s other run allowed came on a first-inning solo homer to Trout, also over the center-field wall.
“Even though they weren’t really bad pitches and were down in the strike zone, they got good contact,” Ramirez said. “But in the end, I have to control it and keep the ball in the ballpark.”
Following Trout’s first-inning homer, Seattle took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second against Angels’ starter Parker Bridwell. With two outs and a runner on third, Upton and Trout had some miscommunication on Ben Gamel’s fly ball to left-center, letting it drop for a triple. Zunino followed with a bloop RBI single.
|AL wild-card race|