SEATTLE – Kyle Seager became the first Seattle batter to hit 20 home runs in a season since 2009 with a solo shot in the first inning and the Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels, 6-1, on Tuesday night.
The penultimate game of the season came a night after the Angels were eliminated from the AL wild card chase. And they played like a team with nothing tangible left to play for, tying their season high with three errors, including a pair in the sixth inning by right fielder Mark Trumbo that helped two runs score.
Rookie Mike Trout had one hit in five at-bats to see his average drop to .324. He’s seven points behind leader Miguel Cabrera.
Seager provided Seattle some early offense, becoming just the fifth player in Mariners history to record a 20-homer season in one of his first two years in the majors. He added a double in the sixth, when the Mariners took a 5-0 lead.
With the Angels out of the playoff chase, much of the attention turned to the Mariners’ announcement Tuesday that the fences would be moved in at Safeco Field for the 2013 season, most notably in left-center field where fly balls notoriously die. Almost on cue, both teams peppered the outfield with fly balls that left question about whether that would be a home run in future seasons.
There was no question about Michael Saunders’ two-run double in the fourth inning off Angels’ starter Dan Haren (12-13) that thudded off the wall on the fly in deep left-center to score John Jaso and Justin Smoak. Seattle’s Casper Wells, twice, and the Angels’ Hank Conger both hit fly balls that very likely could be homers in future seasons but ended up being flyouts.
The Mariners are moving in the fences only a few feet in some spots, but are making a drastic change in left-center field where it will be shortened by as much as 17 feet.
Seager reached a power milestone no Seattle batter could in each of the last two seasons with his homer in the first. Russell Branyan (31) and Jose Lopez (25) in 2009 were the last Seattle hitters to reach the 20-homer mark.
Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5) made his bid for a spot in Seattle’s 2013 plans by winning his third straight start to close the year. He allowed six hits and struck out seven, including Angels’ slugger Albert Pujols three times, while pitching six scoreless innings. It was just the 12th time in Pujols’ career that he struck out three times in a game.
The Angels left runners at second and third in the first inning, then saw Trout standing at third with no outs in the third and failed to get him home. Iwakuma struck out Howie Kendrick and Pujols and got a groundout from Kendrys Morales to escape the jam.
Iwakuma, who will be a free agent after the season, finished 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA after moving into the starting rotation in July.
Haren tied his career high in losses, but got little help from his defense with the three errors. He struck out eight, but also gave up seven hits and dropped his final two decisions of the season.