10:05 PM EST, FSW – Line: Los Angeles -125
With the finish line nearly in sight, a pair of American League West rivals face off as the Los Angeles Angels host the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. Muse’s “Time is Running Out” must be playing in the background for Seattle Manager Lloyd McClendon, as his Mariners (80-69) continue to remain on the outside looking in, trailing the Kansas City Royals by two games for the final Wild Card birth in the American League. However, this is a club that hasn’t quite played it’s best ball of late; the Mariners have lost five out of their last seven outings, including each of the last three, with Monday’s crucial series opener at the Angels being the most recent. Despite generally playing well against the AL’s top seed (7-6 versus Los Angeles this season), the M’s were blown out to the tune of 8-1 Monday Night, as they struggled to contain their opponent’s explosive lineup.
By comparison, McClendon’s offense looked all but inept last night, mustering a total of just one run on six hits. A pair of doubles from Robinson Cano (34) and Logan Morrison (16) failed to earn any return, while Pinch Hitter Humberto Quintero’s sacrifice single drove Morrison home in the 8th Inning for the team’s lone run. Hisashi Iwakuma (14-8, 3.42 ERA) had a rough night on the mound, getting tagged for seven runs on six hits, including a pair of RBI-doubles and a home run in just 3.1 innings of work. Heading into the game, Iwakuma had been lights out against the Angels, owning a 5-0 record with a 1.64 ERA, but after retiring the first eight batters he faced, the flood gates proceeded to open. Looking to turn the tide tonight will be Roenis Elias (10-12, 3.81 ERA), who despite his overall record, has been solid over his last nine outings. The young left-hander has gone 3-4 over that span with a stellar 2.08 ERA, relinquishing two runs or less in all nine of said starts. The rookie pitched well in last Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Houston, yielding one run on six hits, striking out four Astros while walking two in 6.0 innings or labor. Elias has gotten stronger as the season has progressed, a great sign for a young pitcher, but has struggled in his only two appearances against the Angels thus far, posting a 5.56 ERA.
Meanwhile, with Monday’s victory the Angels (94-56) became the first team in the Majors this season to clinch a postseason birth, and with a four-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the American League, home field advantage is within their grasp. It’s the first time in five years that Mike Scioscia’s club has advanced to the Playoffs, yet they refrained from dowsing each other in champagne after the game, for they have their eyes set on bigger things. With that said, this is a team that given the circumstances has had to overcome a good deal to get to this point. It was just five weeks ago when Los Angeles trailed the Oakland Athletics by double-digits in the AL West, yet have gone 29-19 since August 1st, and have now won eleven of their past twelve contests. Injuries also threatened to derail their postseason hopes, particularly in the rotation where young ace Garrett Richards (13-4, 2.61 ERA) suffered a season-ending knee injury. With that said, it’s been next man up with a number of relievers supplementing the youngster’s place in the rotation.
As has been the case for the majority of the season, the Los Angeles’ offense was the driving force in Monday’s 8-1 victory. The Angels hammered out eight runs on nine hits, with the majority of the damage done in the 3rd and 4th Innings. Albert Pujols goth things started with a two-run double (36) before Howie Kendrick drove home Tony Campana with a double of his own (30) later in the inning. David Freese ended Iwakuma’s night with his ninth homer of the campaign, while Campana earned a two-run single shortly afterward. Not to be forgotten, Brennan Boesch tagged his first home run in an Angels’ uniform in the 5th Inning, running the lead to a comfortable 8-0. Matt Shoemaker (16-4, 3.04 ERA) continued to impress, putting forth a solid performance in which he yielded one run on five hits in 7.1 innings of work, striking out five Mariners with no walks. Monday’s win was the right-hander’s ninth in his last eleven tries. Heading to the hill tonight is Cory Rasmus (3-1, 2.80 ERA), whom while normally utilized as a reliever, will be counted on to help fill the void left by the aforementioned Richards. Scioscia has tried his best to ease the young right-hander into the rotation; Rasmus hasn’t thrown more than 49 pitches in any of his past four starts, meeting that threshold in in last Thursday’s 7-3 win over the Rangers. While he owns a scant 1.69 ERA over 5.1 innings against the Mariners, expect the rest of the Bullpen to get plenty of work while their comrade becomes more acclimated to longer outings.