ANAHEIM, Calif. – There was little hiding the sense of urgency that the Mariners carried into the opener of a weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels.
It wasn’t so much that the Mariners were playing three games against division foes, they were also kicking off a two-week stretch that could very well determine their season. The fact that the Mariners prevailed 8-3 on Friday night behind a stellar, 10-strikeout effort from Cliff Lee was a good start, but they know they still have a whole lot of climbing to do.
Beating the Angels enabled Seattle to gain a game on division-leading Texas for the second straight day, closing to within 6 1/2 games of first place. But the Mariners are also still six games behind second-place Oakland, and they may soon find that making up any ground in the American League West may require them to string together a whole lot more victories than they’ve been capable of so far.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu admitted before the game that his players were all aware of the importance of this upcoming stretch. The Mariners face the Angels later next week at Safeco Field, with a series against the A.L. Central-leading Minnesota Twins sandwiched in between.
After that, it’s off to Texas for four games against the Rangers. By the time that’s done, the Mariners could be back in the thick of things, or so far out of the division lead that the bidding from other teams for Lee’s services will move ahead full throttle.
Among the positive signs in this one – besides Lee getting back to his old self with a strong, eight-inning effort following a loss his last time out – were some of the lesser bats in the lineup finally coming through. Jose Lopez managed his first home run in five weeks, a leadoff shot off Angels starter Scott Kazmir in the fourth inning, to give Lee some breathing room.
Trailing 2-0, the Mariners roared back with three in the third inning, a pair of runs scoring on a Milton Bradley single to left center.
Lopez’s home run added a run, and Chone Figgins, a focal point of his team’s miserable offense, helped pad the margin with an RBI double down the right-field line in the fifth.
Figgins later scored on a Bradley sacrifice fly to give Seattle a 6-2 lead.
•The M’s placed catcher Josh Bard on the 15-day disabled list, brought up catcher Eliezer Alfonzo from Tacoma and designated infielder Jack Hannahan for assignment.
Mariners 8, Angels 3
|Seattle||003||120||002 – 8||11||1|
|Los Angeles||200||010||000 – 3||5||1|
E – Cl.Lee (2), B.Abreu (6). LOB – Seattle 6, L.A. 5. 2B – Figgins (9), Ro.Johnson (4), Jo.Wilson (4), Frandsen (3). HR – Jo.Lopez (2), off Kazmir. RBIs – F.Gutierrez 2 (24), Bradley 3 (18), Jo.Lopez (17), Jo.Wilson (9), H.Kendrick (23), Tor.Hunter (29), K.Morales (35). SF – Bradley. RLISP – Seattle 2 (M.Sweeney 2); L.A. 1 (J.Rivera). RMU – K.Morales.
|Kazmir L,3-5||5 1/3||8||6||5||1||1||6.34|
IR-S – T.Bell 1-0. HBP – by S.Shields (I.Suzuki). T – 2:33. A – 41,770 (45,285).
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