Despite Smoak’s 2 homers, M’s can’t dig out of 5-1 hole

Angels 5, mariners 4: L.A’.s Greinke stymies Seattle hitters, who strike out a combined 20 times

McClatchy news servicesSeptember 26, 2012 

anaheim, calif. – Zack Greinke had a season-high 13 strikeouts in five innings, and the Angels got home runs from Torii Hunter and Erick Aybar on Tuesday night in a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners that kept Los Angeles two games behind Oakland for the second AL wild card.

According to ESPN Stats, Greinke became the first pitcher in the live-ball era (since 1920) to strike out 13 batters in a start that lasted only five innings. Randy Johnson had 13 through his first five frames on July 4, 2001, for Arizona against Houston, but he threw one more inning.

The 20 combined strikeouts by Angels pitchers tied a major league record for a nine-inning game.

SAUNDERS A NEW DADDY

Michael Saunders continued his breakout year in Castle Rock, Colo., on Tuesday, where he spent the day with wife Jessica and their first child, a daughter born early in the day.

The Seattle Mariners weren’t certain whether Saunders would be back with the team for the start of the series with the Angels, and he was originally in the starting lineup in right field.

Hours before the game, manager Eric Wedge was in contact with Saunders, 25, and afterward slid Eric Thames into the lineup.

Saunders could return to the team today.

There were other lineup considerations for Wedge, who sat rookie Jesus Montero while catching Miguel Olivo and using John Jaso at designated hitter. Why wasn’t Montero in?

“Jesus had the off day (Monday), and I just wanted to give him two days in a row off,” Wedge said. “Against Zach Greinke, Olivo has had a little success, and Montero had never faced him.”

Olivo was 2-for-5 in his career against Greinke. Montero was 5-for-25 during Seattle’s six-game homestand and has not homered since Sept. 2. The Mariners think the youngster is pressing.

After missing 21/2 games because of a stiff neck, Dustin Ackley returned to the lineup and batted leadoff.

JASO’S CHIN CHAOS

The beard that Jaso began growing just before the All-Star break has taken on a life of its own, and the catcher/DH doesn’t mind letting it go.

And because he doesn’t really trim the beard, the question arose – how long is too long?

“It’s already 10 times longer than any other time I’ve grown a beard,” Jaso said. “I wake up in the morning and my hair and beard are going every direction – it’s chaos.”

On Twitter and Facebook, his looks have been compared to that of mountain men, cavemen and the Amish. Jaso is none of those, just a player having fun with facial hair.

“My fiancee likes it, and she’s the only other person who really has a vote,” Jaso said. “If I keep it this offseason, I’m going to get some length to it.”

SHORT HOPS

Lucas Luetge has inherited 50 baserunners in his first 62 relief appearances this season, and stranded 42 of them – allowing a stingy 16 percent to score. That’s currently the seventh-best percentage by a reliever with at least 30 inherited runners in franchise history. Who was the best? Bill Wilkinson, in 1988, allowed only four of 34 inherited runners to score (11.8 percent). … Felix Hernandez will start today, and while the Angels haven’t exactly pounded him, his career numbers against them – 6-11 with a 3.89 earned-run average in 28 starts – are hardly stellar. This year hasn’t helped. Felix is 0-2 with a 5.75 ERA vs. Los Angeles in 2012.

ON TAP

Seattle plays Los Angeles at 7:05 p.m. on Root Sports. Probable starting pitchers: Seattle’s Hernandez (13-8, 2.85 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (12-10, 3.82).

Staff writer Larry LaRue contributed to this report.

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