ANAHEIM, Calif. — So what do you think about this postseason chase, Mariners fans? Is this nerve-wracking or what?
Logan Morrison’s three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday night lifted the Mariners to a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels and, just maybe, saved their October aspirations.
“It was one of the biggest hits, if not the biggest hit, of my life,” he said. “It was awesome. Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now. Keep it going tomorrow.”
Morrison’s blast rescued the Mariners when they appeared ready to squander a gift-wrapped opportunity. The Angels, one night after clinching the division crown, sent out a lineup of crammed with backups and call-ups.
But the Mariners couldn’t do anything against journeyman lefty Wade LeBlanc or the Angels’ bullpen until they stirred to life with two outs in the ninth inning against Kevin Jepsen.
Before then, all that saved this from being a disaster was Felix Hernandez, who pitched like a staff ace and a Cy Young Award favorite by blanking these patchwork Angels for seven innings.
“From pitch one,’ catcher Mike Zunino said, “he was throwing well. I think he’s sniffing that postseason. I know he wants to get there more than anybody.”
Hernandez yielded just three hits and two walks while striking out 11, but all it did was keep the Mariners even. When Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen worked out of a jam in the eighth, it was 0-0 into the ninth.
Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen (0-2) got two quick outs before Kendrys Morales poked a single to left. Pinch-runner James Jones took second on a wild pickoff throw, which then prompted an intentional walk to Kyle Seager.
Morrison then unloaded on a 1-1 pitch.
“I didn’t know it was gone,” said Jones, who sprinted from second base. “I knew it was (at least) in the gap. I just went off of the dugout’s reaction. That’s how I knew it went over.”
The Mariners led 3-0.
Fernando Rodney yielded a one-out homer in the Angels ninth to Hank Conger but closed out the victory. It was Rodney’s 46th save, which set a Mariners’ record. That it came with some anxiety seemed only fitting.
“They all count,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It’s like people ask, `How was your flight?’ If it landed, it was a good flight.”
The victory boosted the Mariners to 82-70 and pulled them to within one game of Oakland and 1 1/2 games of Kansas City for the American League’s two wild-card spots with 10 games remaining.
The Angels nearly broke through as soon as Hernandez exited.
Furbush began the eighth inning by surrendering a single to Shawn O’Malley through the left side of the infield. Furbush struck out Tony Campana, who bunted through an 0-2 pitch.
The Mariners then summoned Wilhelmsen, who struck out Gordon Beckham before O’Malley stole second. That prompted an intentional walk to Brennan Boesch, who had two of the three hits against Hernandez.
A walk to C.J. Cron loaded the bases, but Wilhelmsen (3-2) got the game to the ninth inning by retiring Efren Navarro on a fly to center.
The Mariners seemingly caught a break when the Angels, their division title in hand, chose to begin aligning their postseason rotation. Specifically, they shifted from staff ace Jered Weaver to LeBlanc.
LeBlanc limited the Mariners to three singles in 5 1/3 innings before the Angels went to the bullpen for Joe Thatcher with a runner on first,
Thatcher’s first pitch hit Dustin Ackley in the back, which moves Chris Taylor to second base. But Thatcher ended the threat by getting Robinson Cano to ground into a double play.
“We knew what to expect,” Zunino said. “(LeBlanc) just threw the ball really well. We were able to hang in there long enough to score in the ninth.”
So…was it nerve-wracking?
Morrison swatted that question nearly as hard as he hit his homer.
“Nerve-wracking?” he said. “Are you kidding me? This is awesome. This is what you dream about as a kid. Why are you going to be nervous? It’s exciting. Now, keep it going. Let’s just keep it going.”