SEATTLE -- Another late rally and another stellar performance by their bullpen have the Los Angeles Angels in position for a playoff spot in the American League.
Yes there are still 44 games to go, but the Angels find themselves holding one of the two wild card spots in the AL.ADVERTISEMENT
"Everybody thinks we're overachieving but we think we deserve to be there," reliever Keynan Middleton said.
Luis Valbuena's two-run homer in the seventh inning pulled Los Angeles even, Albert Pujols added a two-run double in the eighth and the Angels rallied for a 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.
It was the fifth straight win for the Angels and third straight over the Mariners, allowing Los Angeles to leap past Seattle and Minnesota in the wild card standings. In each of the three games, the Mariners' issues with their bullpen have festered.
Valbuena's homer came off reliever Casey Lawrence and after the Mariners got six surprisingly strong innings out of starter Erasmo Ramirez. It was just the third hit of the month for Valbuena, who is batting .103 in August.
Tony Zych (5-3) ran into even more trouble in the eighth. Zych walked the first two batters before giving up Pujols' double to the gap that scored Ben Revere and Mike Trout. Kole Calhoun's single and Andrelton Simmons' sacrifice fly scored Pujols for a three-run lead.
Seattle's bullpen has allowed 13 runs in the first three games of the series, versus just three runs allowed by the Angels' bullpen.
"The story of our season is that we've been up and down," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "We were on a really good high here. We played great on the road trip, but coming back home where our bullpen has been so good the majority of the year, we stubbed our toe."
The Mariners got a strong start from Ramirez after he underperformed in his first two starts since being acquired from Tampa Bay. Ramirez allowed three hits and one unearned run. But all the good from Ramirez's start was quickly undone by the bullpen. Lawrence gave up a one-out single to C.J. Cron and Valbuena's line-drive homer to right field to tie the game at 3-all, followed by Zych's issues in the eighth.
While Seattle's bullpen has struggled, the Angels' relievers have been solid. Starter JC Ramirez was done after five innings following Kyle Seager's 18th home run that gave Seattle a 3-1 lead. Jesse Chavez allowed four hits in 1 2/3 innings but was not scored on, helped by two Mariners getting caught stealing and a perfect relay to get Yonder Alonso trying to score from first on Robinson Cano's double in the seventh. Cano was stranded at third as Middleton (4-0) got Nelson Cruz to ground out to end the inning.
"We're not going to get there unless our bullpen continues to perform the way they have," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They've been holding up. Like I said, they've been used a lot but very, very effective."
Seattle hitting coach Edgar Martinez got the night off from his regular job as the Mariners retired his No. 11 during an emotional pregame ceremony. It's the second number retired by the club, joining the No. 24 of Ken Griffey Jr. The Mariners made the decision to honor Martinez after he jumped to nearly 59 percent of the vote in baseball Hall of Fame voting this year, in the hope that Martinez gains the needed 75 percent in his final two years of eligibility.
Angels: RHP Andrew Baileywas reinstated from the disabled list after being out since April due to shoulder troubles. Scioscia said Bailey will be used in some low-leverage situations to start with. The Angels optioned outfielder Cesar Puello to clear a roster spot.
Mariners: Seattle's bullpen shuffle continued with the club selecting RHP Christian Bergman from Triple-A Tacoma and optioning RHP Andrew Moore to help in the bullpen. Moore threw 1 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on Friday night. Bergman was primarily a starter with the Mariners earlier this season going 4-4 with a 5.44 ERA in nine games, eight starts.
Angels: Parker Bridwell (6-1) goes for his fifth straight victory. Bridwell allowed one run over seven innings in his last start against Baltimore.
Mariners: Ariel Miranda (7-5) looks to stop his recent slide. Miranda is winless in his last six starts, his last victory coming on June 30.