ANAHEIM, Calif. – The home runs came just a little too late.
For eight innings Sunday, the Mariners weren’t the team hitting homers. They were the team getting homered upon. It was a reversal of the previous three games at Angels Stadium when Seattle hitters pummeled Angels pitchers with dingers.
Unfortunately, the Mariners’ three-homer explosion in the top of the ninth Sunday wasn’t enough to overcome a serious deficit created by their bullpen in the two previous innings.
Instead of magical rally for a victory and four-game series sweep, Seattle had to settle for a series win after an 8-6 defeat against the Angels.
“We put a little pressure on them in the ninth,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “I looked at Manny Acta (Seattle’s bench coach) in the top of the ninth and said, ‘We haven’t hit a homer today.’ And sure enough we went out and hit a few to make it interesting.”
Indeed, it appeared the Mariners might go without a homer in the game for just the second time in 25 games. They entered the ninth inning down 8-1 and seemingly ready for the off day Monday in San Diego.
But Tom Murphy hit a two-run homer off reliever Noe Ramirez and Dee Gordon followed with a solo homer that made it 8-4. Angels manager Brad Ausmus went to his closer, Cody Allen, who promptly served up a two-run homer to Mitch Haniger that made it 8-6.
Following Allen’s walk to Domingo Santana, Ausmus turned to his third pitcher of the inning, and right-hander Luis Garcia got Edwin Encarnacion to pop up to first to end the game.
The three homers in the ninth gives Seattle 56 home runs this season – the most in Major League Baseball.
“We have a lot of power in this lineup, so you are really never out of a game,” Haniger said.
The Angels smashed three homers off Mike Leake and scored four insurance runs off the Mariners’ bullpen, including another home run.
“I thought Mike threw the ball fine,” Servais said. “It was just the home-run ball. We were on the other side of it early in the ballgame.”
Los Angeles jumped on Leake in the second inning. Brian Goodwin worked a leadoff walk and Kevan Smith followed with a deep driver over the wall in center for his first homer of the season and a 2-0 lead.
The Angels used a combined pitching effort that featured Hansel Robles in the first inning, then scheduled starter Jaime Barria pitching five innings of “relief” in what should’ve been a drama-free victory.
Seattle trimmed the 2-0 lead in half in the top of the third. Haniger doubled to start the inning and Santana sent a line drive back up the middle, just missing Barria’s ear for a run-scoring single. It was Santana’s 26th RBI of the season – the most in the American League.
But Leake couldn’t keep the deficit to just one run. He allowed a solo homer to Tommy La Stella in the fourth inning and a solo homer to Goodwin in the sixth inning to make it 4-1.
Leake worked six innings, allowing four runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
“I left some pitches up a little bit,” Leake said. “Those three mistakes and couple that with the walks. It was a day that I was having to work to get the ball down in the zone and it wasn’t necessarily getting there easily.”
The Mariners’ best chances for hitting their way back into the game came in the seventh inning when they loaded the bases with two outs. Mallex Smith got ahead 3-0 against right-hander Ty Buttrey. But Smith got aggressive on a 3-1 pitch and grounded out to short to end the inning and the threat.
“I thought we had a chance to get back in it and we couldn’t get the big hit there,” Servais said.
Seattle’s deficit got larger in the seventh when Shawn Armstrong struggled, giving up a pair of runs on a run-scoring single from Justin Bour and a run-scoring ground-rule double from Andrelton Simmons to make it 6-1.
In what was probably his final appearance before being sent back to Class AAA Tacoma, Ruben Alaniz struggled to get through the eighth. Alaniz’s first pitch was hammered by La Stella for his second homer of the game. A wild pitch on a third strike allowed David Fletcher to reach first base and later score on Kole Calhoun’s double into right field to make it 8-1.
“The tack-on runs, that’s what hurt us in the last homestand a little bit,” Servais said. “I think everybody believes in our offense and we certainly believe in our offense. So if you can keep them right there, we always have a chance to come back. You saw that in this game.”