ANAHEIM, Calif. – Zack Greinke had a season-high 13 strikeouts in five innings, and the Angels got home runs from Torii Hunter and Erick Aybar on Tuesday night in a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners that kept Los Angeles two games behind Oakland for the second A.L. wild card.
According to ESPN Stats, Greinke became the first pitcher in the live-ball era (since 1920) to strike out 13 batters in a start that lasted only five innings. Randy Johnson had 13 through his first five frames on July 4, 2001, for Arizona against Houston, but he threw one more inning.
The 20 combined strikeouts by Angels pitchers tied a major league record for a nine-inning game.
Justin Smoak homered twice for the Mariners, a solo shot in the fourth against Greinke and a two-run drive off Scott Downs during a three-run seventh that sliced the Angels’ lead to 5-4.
Greinke (6-2) won his fifth straight decision over seven starts, allowing seven hits and escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by striking out Eric Thames. The 2009 A.L. Cy Young Award winner came within two strikeouts of his career best, which came on Aug. 25, 2009, with Kansas City against Cleveland.
He left after 110 pitches because of a pitch count set by manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher – which burned the Angels in each of the right-hander’s previous two outings.
Those games both resulted in 109-pitch no-decisions for Greinke.
In all, Greinke has 16 wins this season, tying his career high. The nine-year veteran has a 3.40 ERA in 12 starts since joining the Angels in a trade with Milwaukee on July 27. He was 9-2 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts for the Brewers.
Garrett Richards relieved Greinke and struck out the side in the sixth before giving way to Downs. Kevin Jepsen threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and Frieri redeemed himself with a perfect ninth for his 22nd save in 24 chances.
The Angels scored a pair of unearned runs in the first after third baseman Kyle Seager booted a routine grounder by leadoff hitter Mike Trout. Albert Pujols hit an RBI single and Alberto Callaspo had a sacrifice fly. The Mariners came in with the best fielding percentage in the majors, one point higher than the White Sox.
Hunter made it 4-1 in the fifth with his 16th homer after a single by Trout. Aybar added his eighth of the season in the sixth.
Smoak accounted for Seattle’s first run with a drive that barely cleared the 18-foot wall in right field. Scioscia thought there was fan interference on the play and asked second-base umpire Lance Barksdale to look at it on replay with a couple of his partners, which they did.
Scioscia lost another argument three batters later – this time with plate ump Adrian Johnson – after Trayvon Robinson reached on a strikeout-wild pitch and was hit by the throw from catcher Chris Iannetta about 10 feet from first base. Replays confirmed that Robinson was clearly within the baserunning boundary, but Brendan Ryan struck out with runners at the corners.
Greinke struck out seven of his first 11 batters. He fanned Smoak to end the first after two-out singles by Seager and John Jaso, then struck out Robinson and Ryan after a one-out double by Miguel Olivo in the second.
Franklin Gutierrez’s RBI double in the seventh preceded Smoak’s two-out homer, ending a stretch in which the Mariners were 1 for 47 with runners in scoring position.
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