ANAHEIM, Calif. – For all the fun the Seattle Mariners and their fans had with three games of double-figure scoring last week, they were reminded Monday that winning still requires pitching.
Against the Los Angeles Angels, the Mariners scored eight times – then needed a 12/3-inning save from Tom Wilhelmsen to come away with an 8-6 victory.
The win made Jason Vargas a seven-game winner and slowed down an Angels team that had won 10 of its previous 12 games.
After winning with thunder in Texas and holding their own in Chicago, the Mariners in this game unleashed a new weapon upon Los Angeles – Munenori Kawasaki.
The lean backup shortstop got a rare start and carried a .158 batting average and two RBI into his 22nd game. Then he dropped a bunt single in the fourth inning, and came up with the bases loaded in the fifth.
And doubled all three runners home.
At that point, Seattle led 7-2.
Vargas couldn’t get through the sixth inning, and allowed two more runs. It wasn’t his finest effort: 52/3 innings, nine hits allowed, but the left-hander didn’t walk a batter and was able to limit the damage done against him.
Reliever Shawn Kelley was bitten by bad luck and a few hard-hit balls in the eighth, and suddenly that big lead was cut to two runs and the Angels had runners all over the bases with one out.
The Mariners went to a closer who’d never closed – Wilhelmsen. In 50 previous games, he didn’t have a save.
Now he has one, and it was a beauty.
With runners at second and third bases and one out, the first man Wilhelmsen faced was Albert Pujols – a one-man wrecking crew during his visit to Seattle 10 days ago.
Pujols tapped back to the mound and Wilhelmsen caught the runner off third base in a run down.
Then he struck out Mark Trumbo, the Angels’ cleanup hitter – using a 97 mph fastball.
By comparison, the ninth inning was a snap, although Wilhelmsen hit Torii Hunter with a pitch with one out. No problem, he retired Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar and now has one fewer career save than Hisashi Iwakuma.
The Mariners patiently pounded Angels starter Ervin Santana, taking pitches, drawing walks and seeming to frustrate him for 42/3 innings.
Kyle Seager started it in the first inning, working the count his way then hitting his seventh home run over the wall and into the shrubbery beyond center field.
Santana walked the bases loaded in the fourth inning, and John Jaso singled home one run, Mike Carp got another in on a ground ball.
Then came the fifth.
With two outs, Jaso singled and Carp was intentionally walked. Miguel Olivo singled home a run, and Michael Saunders drew yet another walk from Santana.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia stuck with his right-hander against Kawasaki, the No. 9 hitter in the Mariners’ order. Kawasaki lined an opposite field double that scored three runs, and Los Angeles was down, 7-2.
Vargas gave up Kendry Morales’ second home run of the night and sixth of the season in the sixth inning, then allowed a hit and two-out walk. The Mariners called in Brandon League, who allowed an RBI single before getting out of the inning.
When Kelley ran into trouble in the eighth, it wasn’t entirely his fault.
He struck out the first man he faced, Kendrick, but Olivo had the pitch go through his legs, and Kendrick reached base. Eric Aybar walked and when John Hester hit a ground ball to shortstop, Kawasaki bobbled it.
Ruled an infield hit, it loaded the bases – though two runners shouldn’t have reached base at all.
The win pulled the Mariners to within eight games of Texas in the American League West, closed the gap with Los Angeles to 31/2 games and gave Seattle a 4-3 record on their current trip.
It also gave them a look at Wilhelmsen as a closer. It’s a sight they might be willing to watch email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLaRue