What’s one more heartbreak for the Mariners at Angel Stadium as they wind down their disappointing season? This one didn’t match the April 9 collapse when they blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning.
But it was close enough.
The Los Angeles Angels rallied for four runs in the eighth inning Friday night against three Mariners relievers for a stunning (if not particularly surprising) 6-5 victory at Angel Stadium.
This one offered a second-guesser’s delight, particularly in the decision by manager Scott Servais to start the eighth inning with Nick Vincent.
While Vincent has been the Mariners’ primary setup reliever all season and sported a 1.87 ERA as recently as Sept. 3, he’s pitched the last four weeks like a man who is simply gassed.
Vincent had allowed eight runs and 13 hits over 6 1/3 innings in his previous eight outings. Worse, he’s been tormented all season by the Angels for seven runs and 12 hits over just five innings in six appearances.
Servais called on Vincent anyway.
"He has been our eighth-inning guy all year," Servais said. "He’s running on fumes. We know that. But where we’re at in the ballgame, we wanted to give him chance to go out there and knock it down."
It was a disaster.
Vincent served up a first-pitch homer to Mike Trout. It was Trout’s second homer of the game, his 33rd of the season and the 201st of his career. He has 26 career homers against the Mariners, which is his highest total against any opponent.
Vincent’s troubles deepened when Albert Pujols blooped a one-out double to right, and Pujols scored when C.J. Cron pulled a two-out single through the left side.
Servais replaced Vincent at that point with Marc Rzepczynski to get a left-on-left matchup against Kole Calhoun. After pinch-runner Eric Young stole second base, Calhoun reached on an infield single. Young moved to third.
That brought Edwin Diaz into the game.
Pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena blooped a two-run double to right on an 0-2 fastball, and the Angels had the lead.
"It was up and in," Diaz said. "I don’t know how he hit it. I have to tip my cap to him."
Ex-Mariner Blake Parker closed out LA’s victory by pitching a one-two-three ninth and ended the game by striking out Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.
"We just couldn’t put them away," Servais said. "We had two strikes on Cron. We had two strikes on Calhoun. We had two strikes on Valbuena. You’ve got to give those guys credit. They got the balls in play. They hit them in good spots."
Vincent’s ERA now stands at 3.20 after being charged with three runs in two-thirds of an inning, although the loss went the Rzepczynski (2-2). Diaz blew his fifth save in 38 opportunities.
"We’ve used (Vincent) a lot," catcher Mike Zunino said. "He’s a guy who is going to take the ball no matter what. That’s what everyone really respects out of him. He’s filled a big gap for us this year.
"Hopefully, he gets one more opportunity to go out there and throw a clean inning."
Trout opened the scoring by crushing a 2-1 changeup from Mariners starter Marco Gonzales for a one-out homer in the first inning. It was a no-doubter: 420 feet onto the rock pile to the left of dead center field.
The Mariners struck back in the fourth inning when Cruz and Kyle Seager led off with back-to-back homers against Angels starter Tyler Skaggs. No. 39 for Cruz; No. 26 for Seager. Skaggs then struck out the next three batters.
Gonzales couldn’t follow it up with a shutdown inning.
Andrelton Simmons led off with a single and went to second when Gonzales walked Cron. Simmons moved to third on Calhoun’s fly to deep left and scored the tying run on Cliff Pennington’s sacrifice fly to center.
The Mariners answered by scoring once in the fifth inning and knocking Skaggs out of the game.
Jean Segura pulled a one-out single to left, stole second and scored on Robinson Cano’s two-out single for a 3-2 lead. Yusmeiro Petit replaced Skaggs and got the inning’s final out.
Gonzales didn’t return for the fifth, which denied him any chance to get the victory. In came Ryan Garton, who worked a scoreless inning before the Mariners struck again.
Seager started the sixth inning with a single to right before Zunino hit a two-run homer that boosted the lead to 5-2. It was Zunino’s 25th homer of the season.
It stayed that way until the eighth.
***Chasing .300: Segura went 3-for-3 in his return to the lineup after missing the previous four games because of a sprained middle finger on his right hand.
That raised his average to .300, and he was replaced before he could bat again by Gordon Beckham. Don’t look to see Segura again this weekend. Even he admitted: "Probably not."
Segura batted a career-high .319 last season at Arizona, which marked the only previous time in his six-year career that he topped. 300.
"Jean’s finger had been an issue," Servais said. "He wanted to give it a go tonight. He got the three hits. We also want to see Gordon Beckham play a little bit, too. Jean’s had a nice season. Kind of battled through some things."
***38 special: While Cruz has 39 homers, one of them came as a right fielder on May 25 at Washington. He has 38 homers as a designated hitter, which is notable because that is a franchise record.
Edgar Martinez hit a career-high 37 homers, all as a DH, in 2000. It was the only season in an 18-year career that Martinez hit more than 29 homers.
***A positive step: Gonzales gave up two runs and four hits while throwing 73 pitches over four innings. He finishes the season at 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 games, including seven starts, since his July 21 arrival in a trade from St. Louis.
The numbers aren’t particularly impressive, but Gonzales made it through a full season with no injury setbacks after missing all of last year while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
"That was the main goal," he said. "Just to show that I’m healthy. With how this year has gone, the hectic-ness — the trade — I really couldn’t be happier with where my arm is at. That’s really encouraging for next year.
"When you’re not healthy, all of your focus is on getting back to the mound. It’s really encouraging to take this into next year. I couldn’t be more excited."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners