ANAHEIM, Calif. — Two teams headed in different directions provided a very predictable result.
Despite a patchwork starting rotation and a propensity to win every game by one run, the Mariners have been one of the hottest teams in baseball. Meanwhile, the sinking Angels, in the midst of a miserable losing streak and forgettable season, continue to fall further into August irrelevance.
Behind another quality outing from Felix Hernandez and just enough run support, the Mariners picked up a 3-2 victory Monday over the Angels for their ninth win in 10 games. It also extended the Angels’ losing streak to 11 straight games, including four times to the Mariners (63-54).
Hernandez pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits with four walks and eight strikeouts to win the 150th game of his career. Edwin Diaz closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save in seven opportunities.
With two outs in the bottom of the second, the Angels’ No. 8 and 9 hitters produced their first run.
Cliff Pennington hit a laser to right-center for a double. He scored moments later when Nick Buss hit a soft liner to left field that was just out of the reach of Norichika Aoki and bounced over the wall.
Seattle answered with back-to-back RBI singles from Adam Lind and Mike Zunino in the fourth inning off Angels starter Ricky Nolasco. It was a lead the Mariners never relinquished, but they needed one key decisive run from the bat of Nelson Cruz an inning later.
After seeing curveballs and sliders from Nolasco in his first two at-bats, Cruz got the hanger he was waiting for in the fifth inning. Nolasco left a 2-2 curveball up in the zone, and Cruz crushed it, sending a towering moonshot into left field for a solo homer and a 3-1 Seattle lead.
It was Cruz’s 30th homer of the season, giving him 30 or more homers for the third season in a row and the fourth time in his career.
He has 74 homers in his first two seasons with the Mariners, which are the most for any player in club history in his first two seasons. Richie Sexson hit a combined 73 in 2005-06.
In their long running battle of homers vs. strikeouts, Hernandez had basically abstained from participating with Mike Trout in his first two plate appearances, walking him without leaving much near the strike zone.
But in the midst of a string of six straight strikeouts spanning from the final out of the third inning to the second out of the fifth inning, Hernandez decided to test his nemesis and he pitched to Trout. Why not with two outs and nobody on and a run of quality strikes?
It was a regrettable decision. Hernandez left a 1-1 curveball over the middle of the plate and Trout pounced on it, blasting a solo homer over the shrubbery behind the center-field wall for his 23rd homer of the season. It was his seventh homer off Hernandez in his career and it trimmed the Mariners’ lead to 3-2.
Seattle appeared to have two more runs in the seventh.
With two outs and Cruz on first, Kyle Seager launched a high fly ball headed for the right-field seats. But Kole Calhoun — one of the better defensive right fielders in baseball — made a brilliant leaping grab over the wall to rob Seager of a sure two-run homer.
Hernandez never got another rematch with Trout. Manager Scott Servais wouldn’t let that happen.
In the seventh, Hernandez gave up a one-out double to Buss and then issued a two-out walk to Calhoun to bring Trout to the plate. Servais called on Tom Wilhelmsen to face Trout. The process was a little bit scary for Seattle, but the result was ideal. A rare passed ball from Mike Zunino put the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second and it looked like they might be jogging home when Trout launched a ball to left field. But Aoki tracked the ball and made a nice catch at the wall to end the inning.
M’s trade Sardinas to Padres
The Mariners made a small trade on Monday morning, sending utility infielder Luis Sardinas to the San Diego Padres in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
Sardinas, 23, had been designated for assignment on August 10. The Mariners were able to pick something up instead of losing him to a likely waivers claim.
He hit .252 with four doubles and 17 RBI in 44 games with Class AAA Tacoma. In three different stints with the Mariners, he hit .181 with two homes and five RBI in 32 games.