ANAHEIM, Calif. – Mike Trout tormented the Mariners again.
But thanks to great pitching in relief of Chris Flexen, plenty of base runners and just enough runs, it was the Mariners who were celebrating at the end.
Seattle, which lost four of five games to the Angels at T-Mobile Park a week ago, opened a three-game series with a 4-3 victory Friday night at Angels Stadium.
Seattle won its fourth straight game, all on the road after a 3-8 homestand, tying its longest winning streak of the season.
“Tonight was a bullpen game is how I look at it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Our bullpen was off the chart tonight.”
The Mariners won despite a historic homer from Trout, who had five home runs in the recent five-game series in Seattle.
He hit his 53rd homer against Seattle on Friday, giving him the record for most homers by an opponent against the Mariners, pushing him past Rafael Palmeiro.
Trout also had a triple that ended Flexen’s night with no outs in the sixth, but in the end it didn’t matter.
The Mariners, who had 21 base runners in the game, didn’t take long to score the game’s first run.
Julio Rodriguez, taking injured Ty France’s spot at No. 2 in the order, had a one-out walk in the top of the first inning. Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez followed with singles, the latter one driving home Rodriguez for a 1-0 Mariners lead.
Justin Upton hurt his former team in the third inning, delivering a two-out single that scored Winker, who led off the inning with a double. The Angels, who released Upton in early April, are paying almost all of his $28 million contract for this season.
Upton’s hit gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead, but they left the bases loaded when Dylan Moore popped out.
Seattle left seven men on base in the first three innings, which took Angels starter Michael Lorenzen 85 pitches to get through, and he was relieved to start the fourth.
Rodriguez hit a solo homer off Oliver Ortega, lining a ball that hit a fan sitting in the front row next to the left-field foul pole. Seattle ended up stranding two more runners.
It was fortunate for Seattle that Trout was leading off the fourth because his historic homer to center field counted for just one run.
The Mariners got that run back in the sixth on a two-out double from Suarez that was followed by a bloop run-scoring single to right field by Taylor Trammell that gave Seattle a 4-1 lead.
But Trout came up again in the bottom of the sixth, and again he inflicted pain on the Mariners. He was held to a triple this time – on a rocket to center field that was misjudged by Rodriguez – but it scored a run.
Reliever Ryan Borucki then retired three straight hitters – including a ground out by Shohei Ohtani that scored Trout – and the Mariners got out of the sixth with a 4-3 lead.
Flexen allowed three runs in five innings, ending Seattle’s streak of starters allowing two runs or less at 12 games. But the franchise record of starters allowing three runs or less extended to 22.
The Mariners’ bullpen did not allow any runs, but it was tense in the seventh when Andres Munoz entered with runners on first and second and one out. But Munoz got pinch-hitter David MacKinnon to hit into a double play, ending the inning.
Munoz also pitched the eighth, and when Trout came up with one out and the bases empty, it was obvious the Mariners had no intention of giving him a pitch to hit. They intentionally walked him when he didn’t offer at three pitches out of the zone.
“We’ve learned a little bit,” Servais said of not challenging Trout in that situation.
The strategy worked when Munoz struck out Ohtani and Jared Walsh to end the inning.
“Munoz saved the day,” Servais said.
Paul Sewald closed it out with a perfect ninth for Seattle, helped by a great defensive play from Suarez.
Offensively, Seattle wouuld have hoped for more than four runs after getting 10 hits, nine walks and two batters hit by a pitch. There were 16 stranded base runners.
“A lot of really good offense tonight, but part of offense is scoring runs and getting the guys in – the biggest part of offense,” Servais said.
But this time the Mariners got away with missing out on so many opportunities.
“Nice win, but I can’t believe we left 16 guys on base and won the game,” Servais said.
But they did, and now the Mariners are on a bit of roll.
“Our guys are playing well, they’re having run and we’re pitching well,” Servais said. “… When you’re winning some close games it certainly helps.”