ANAHEIM, Calif. — Well, hello Mariners. Welcome back to the postseason chase.
Tuesday’s 13-2 romp over the Los Angeles Angels snapped a three-game skid and, combined with Kansas City’s loss, left the Mariners just one game back in the wild-card chase with 12 games to go.
That it came somewhat gift-wrapped didn’t matter at all.
Sometimes, all it takes is a break to turn everything around, and the Mariners got a big one when baseball’s best player, Angels center fielder Mike Trout, misplayed a fly ball into a two-run double.
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“I hit it, and I thought he had a bead on it right away,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “I squared it up When he came up for his next at-bat, he said it was knuckling like crazy. I must have hit it right on the lace or something.”
OK, maybe there was a bit of luck.
All that mattered is that when Trout took a poor route on that drive, the Mariners erased an early two-run deficit in the fifth inning. And it was if the dam broke on their run-starved attack.
“He was too fast,” left fielder Dustin Ackley said. “It worked to our advantage, him being too fast.”
The Mariners scored four runs in the fifth. They added six more in the sixth inning. It was an amazing turnaround for a club that had managed just one run in its previous 25 innings.
“It’s always fun to have those kinds of games,” first baseman Logan Morrison said. “We haven’t been able to do that very often. Anytime you bat around twice, it’s fun.”
Rookie reliever Carson Smith (1-0) got the victory in relief of lefty starter Roenis Elias, who departed in the fourth inning as a precaution because of stiffness in his elbow.
“It started on a change-up,” Elias said. “It felt a little tight.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon said Elias will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam on Wednesday and is unlikely to make his next scheduled start Sunday at Houston.
That positions Taijuan Walker as a likely replacement.
On Tuesday, Smith worked two scoreless innings before a relay of four more relievers closed out the victory, which boosted the Mariners to 81-69 and left them one game behind the Royals (82-68) for that final wild-card slot.
“The one thing I impressed upon my club,” McClendon said, “is we were not going to let three days define what our season was going to be all about. I think this club has been remarkable all year. They’ve been very resilient.
“We had three tough losses in a row, and we turned the page.”
It sure didn’t start out well.
The Mariners managed just one hit through four innings against Angels right-hander Cory Rasmus, a former reliever in his fourth start since shifting to the rotation.
But they quickly stirred to life in the fifth against Jason Grilli.
Kendrys Morales led off with a walk, and Grilli (1-3) then hit Logan Morrison. The runners advanced on Endy Chavez’s sacrifice.
Chavez was initially called safe at first, but the Angels challenged, and replays overturned the call.
Zunino followed with a game-changing — and, perhaps, a season-changing — drive to deep center that Trout stunningly over-ran with a poor route.
That two-run double snapped a 0-for-18 drought by the Mariners with runners in scoring position. It also marked the first time they had scored more than one run in an inning since the second on Sept. 10 against Houston.
And they weren’t done.
Chris Taylor yanked an RBI double to left for a 3-2 lead, which finished Grilli. The Angels called on Mike Morin, who struck out Austin Jackson before Dustin Ackley drove a two-out RBI double to left that made it 4-2.
The last time the Mariners scored four runs in an inning was a six-run second on Sept. 4 at Texas.
The Mariners added six more runs in the sixth against Fernando Salas and Joe Thatcher.
Again, Morales started things; this time with a single. He went to third when Morrison pulled a double past first. Chavez followed with an RBI single through the left side.
Salas loaded the bases by nicking Zunino with a 2-2 change-up. The runners held when Taylor flied to short right, but Jackson drove an RBI single to right for a 6-2 lead.
The Angels switched to Thatcher for left-on-left match-ups, but Ackley drove a sacrifice fly to right.
Then the Mariners caught another big break.
Robinson Cano hit a squibber up the first-base line. Thatcher let it go for a single, but catcher Chris Iannetta grabbed the ball and threw behind Zunino at third.
The throw was wild, a two-base error, that allowed Zunino and Jackson to score. Cano went all the way to third. Kyle Seager than beat an overshifted infield for an RBI single and a 10-2 lead.
The Mariners added another run in the seventh inning and two more in the ninth.
“It’s one pitch at a time,” Morrison said. “We’re not worried about what we’ve done. We’ve got to worry about what we’re going to do. So keep it going.”