Seattle positions itself to be wild card in wild-card race

mariners 9, angels 4: Final six games are against AL wild-card contenders Oakland and Los Angeles

larry.larue@thenewstribune.comSeptember 28, 2012 

Anaheim, Calif. – The road to October baseball for the Los Angeles Angels leads through Seattle, and that road got a bit longer Thursday.

The Mariners broke open a close game with a four-run seventh inning, then added more in the ninth inning of their 9-4 victory over the Angels.

It cost the Angels the chance to gain ground on American League wild-card rival Oakland, and if anyone wants to call the Mariners “spoilers,” they’re mostly OK with it.

“We’re trying to win all our games, and if that spoils someone else’s season, that’s OK, too,” Casper Wells said. “It’s cool. The American League West is one tough division. Every game we play means something.

“Next year, we want to be one of these teams fighting for a postseason berth.”

Think the Mariners’ last six games matter? Seattle plays three times in Oakland, then a final three-game series in Seattle with the Angels.

“It’s a great experience for our kids,” manager Eric Wedge said. “For most of them, it’s the first time they’ve been in the thick of it – and these are all playoff-style atmospheres.”

After losing the first two games of this series, the Mariners and Angels played in front of a crowd of 37,377, and while there were mistakes made on both sides, the game was intense from the outset.

How intense?

After a bit of back and forth, the game was tied in the fifth inning when likely rookie of the year Mike Trout learned what it was like to play against a defender much like himself.

Trout hammered a ball to right-center field, and center fielder Franklin Gutierrez – a former Gold Glove Award winner – caught it on the run, slammed into the wall and went down hard.

With an Angels runner at first base, Gutierrez flipped the ball to teammate Wells, who threw to the infield and nearly doubled off Chris Ianetta.

“That was a tough play, the ball was hit hard,” Gutierrez said. “I hit my wrist, my head and my shoulder going into the wall. I threw (it) to Casper because I couldn’t get up.”

Gutierrez told Wedge and a team trainer he was fine and stayed in the game, catching another fly ball before returning to the Seattle dugout.

“I was feeling dizzy,” Gutierrez said. “I had that concussion, so it scared me, but I’m fine now.”

That catch helped starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who worked six innings and allowed one earned run in picking up his eighth win of the season.

Ahead 3-2 after six innings, Iwakuma came out of the game – and the Mariners blew it open in the seventh.

New father Michael Saunders and Wells opened the rally with singles, and Wells moved up on a bunt by Brendan Ryan, while Saunders held at third.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia then ordered Dustin Ackley intentionally walked to face rookie Trayvon Robinson – who had entered the game when Gutierrez came out.

Right-hander Garrett Richards walked Robinson, forcing in the run that made it 4-2. The Mariners wouldn’t let Richards off that easily.

“We haven’t had a big inning in a while,” Wedge said. “It was nice to see us get one there.”

Kyle Seager singled in a run, Jesus Montero chased another home with a sacrifice fly, and John Jaso doubled home a fourth run, making it 7-2. The Angels scored twice in the eighth inning, but the Mariners got those runs back with two of their own in the ninth – when the Angels got sloppy and threw a ball away.

The win was Seattle’s 73rd of the season with six games remaining.

ON TAP

Seattle visits Oakland for a 7:07 p.m. game today that will be televised on Root Sports. Probable starting pitchers: Seattle’s Blake Beavan (10-10, 4.64 ERA) vs. A.J. Griffin (6-1, 2.80 ERA).

larry.larue@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLarue

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