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Andrews Albers pitches Mariners over Angels to keep wild-card hopes alive

Seattle Mariners’ Nelson Cruz hits a three-run home run odd Los Angeles Angels' Eduardo Paredes during the fourth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Seattle. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners’ Nelson Cruz hits a three-run home run odd Los Angeles Angels' Eduardo Paredes during the fourth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Seattle. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)

SEATTLE – A month ago, you would have been hard pressed to find a Seattle Mariner fan who could tell you who Andrew Albers was.

Now he’s a player who is helping save the Mariners’ season after one starting pitcher after another has been felled by injuries. The left-hander threw six scoreless innings in the Mariners’ 8-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night, improving to 4-1 with the M’s.

The Mariners (71-71) clinched a win in the three-game series and gained a game in the wild-card standings, moving three games behind Minnesota for the second wild-card spot.

Albers allowed four hits and walked one. He improved to 3-0 at Safeco Field, where he has allowed two runs in 17 innings.

“He trusts his stuff,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said before the game. “His stuff doesn’t wow anyone or overpower anyone, but he trusts it. He’s going to attack. He’ll go after hitters and throw strikes, and when we play good defense behind him the results are pretty good and when we don’t they’re ugly.”

That trend continued on Saturday. Albers kept the Angels off balance despite a fastball in the mid to upper 80s (well below the major league average) and he was helped by several good outfield plays. In his one loss with Seattle, the Mariners committed five errors in the first inning against the New York Yankees and lost 10-1.

While Albers was shutting down the Angels, the Mariners’ offense got busy, particularly in the fourth inning when they scored six runs to take an 8-0 lead. Nelson Cruz capped off the six-run frame with a three-run homer, but he was not the only offensive star for the Mariners.

Mitch Haniger was a double short of the cycle and Robinson Cano celebrated his bobblehead night with a pair of doubles.

But the big story was Albers. Seattle acquired him from the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 11 for cash. It certainly wasn’t a huge amount for a 31-year-old with little pedigree, and the Mariners have undoubtedly gotten their money’s worth and a lot more.

Albers did Saturday what Servais said he does: throw strikes and attack hitters. After a walk and double put runners on second and third against him with two outs in the fourth inning, he struck out Martin Maldonado on three pitches to end the threat. He retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings.

He’s a “guy who’s been around the block,” Servais said of the 31-year-old, who has spent time with 11 different minor league teams over the past 10 seasons, including playing in independent leagues in Canada and the U.S. And that does not count the year he spent in the Korean baseball league.

He has had a couple of short stints with the Minnesota Twins, and played one game with the Toronto Blue Jays but had not been able to stick in the big leagues.

“He’s pitched all over the place and he enjoys the competition,” Servais said. “The fact that he’s in the big leagues and contributing, he’s having fun with that. He’s a very competitive guy.”

And except for the debacle in New York, the Mariners have had fun when he’s on the mound.

“He’s not going to beat himself,” Servais said. “I think that is what has stood out to me since we acquired him.”

Mariners notes

Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who has been on the disabled list since May 17 because of a right shoulder injury, pitched a simulated game Saturday.

Servais said he looked a lot better than the last time he saw Iwakuma throw in such a situation, but it doesn’t sound like Iwakuma will make it back this season.

“We’ll sit down as a group and talk about where we want to go from here,” Servais said. “He’s worked his tail off even to get to the point where he is today, but we’re kind of running up against it with three weeks left.”

Servais said that starters Felix Hernandez and James Paxton came out of Friday’s simulated games in fine shape. When the manager was asked if a decision had been made when to slot them back into the rotation, Servais said, “Not publicly. I am just being honest. We need to talk to those guys first before we go to the media.”

Servais indicated an announcement on when they would return could come as early as Sunday.