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ANAHEIM — This time, the home runs came just a little too late.
For eight innings Sunday, the Mariners weren’t the team hitting homers, they were the team giving them up. It was a reversal of the previous three games at Angels Stadium, where Seattle hitters pummeled Angels pitchers with 11 dingers.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, a three-homer explosion in the top of the ninth wasn’t enough to overcome a serious deficit created by their bullpen in the two innings prior.
So, instead of magical rally for a victory and four-game series sweep, Seattle had to settle for a series win after an 8-6 loss to the Angels.
“We put a little pressure on them in the ninth,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “I looked at Manny Acta in the top of the ninth and said, ‘We haven’t hit a homer today.’ And sure enough we went out and hit a few to make it interesting.”
Indeed, it appeared the Mariners might go without a homer for just the second time in 25 games this season. They entered the ninth inning down 8-1 and seemingly ready for Monday’s off day in San Diego.
But Tom Murphy hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth off reliever Noe Ramirez and Dee Gordon followed with a solo homer that made it 8-4. Angels manager Brad Ausmus went to his closer, Cody Allen, who served up a two-run homer to Mitch Haniger that made it 8-6.
Following Allen’s walk to Domingo Santana, Ausmus turned to his third pitcher of the inning. Right-hander Luis Garcia got Edwin Encarnacion to pop up to first to end the game.
“They are going to put together good at-bats and they are going to score their runs, and they did in the ninth inning, but we were able to hold them off so we’ll take it,” said Tommy La Stella, who hit two home runs for the Angels.
The three homers in the ninth gives Seattle 56 HRs this season — the most in Major League Baseball.
“We have a lot of power in this lineup, so you are really never out of a game,” Haniger said.
The Angels smashed three homers off of Mike Leake, scored four insurance runs off the Mariners’ bullpen — including another home run — and used a combined effort that featured an opener in Hansel Robles and a scheduled starter Jaime Barria pitching five innings of “relief.”
“I thought Mike threw the ball fine,” Servais said of Leake. “It was just the home run ball. We were on the other side of it early in the ball game.”
The Angels jumped on Leake in the second inning. Brian Goodwin worked a leadoff walk and Kevan Smith followed with a deep driver over the wall in center for his first homer of the season and a 2-0 lead.
Seattle trimmed the lead in half in the top of the third. Mitch Haniger doubled to start the inning and Domingo Santana sent a line drive back up the middle, just missing Barria’s ear for an RBI single. It was Santana’s 26th RBI of the season — the most in the American League.
But Leake couldn’t keep the deficit to just one run. He allowed a solo homer to La Stella in the fourth inning and a solo homer to Goodwin in the sixth inning to make it 4-1.
Leake worked the six innings, allowing the four runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out four.
“I left some pitches up a little bit …,” Leake said. “It was a day that I was having to work to get the ball down in the zone and it wasn’t necessarily getting there easily.”
The Mariners best chance for hitting their way back into the game came in the seventh inning when they loaded the bases with two out. Mallex Smith got ahead 3-0 vs. right-hander Ty Buttrey. But Smith got aggressive on a 3-1 pitch and grounded out to short to end the inning and the threat.
“I thought we had a chance to get back in it and we couldn’t get the big hit there,” Servais said.
Any comeback hopes ended in the seventh when Shawn Armstrong struggled, giving up a pair of runs on a run-scoring single from Justin Bour and an RBI ground-rule double from Andrelton Simmons to make it 6-1.
In what was probably his final appearance before being sent back to Class AAA Tacoma, Ruben Alanize struggled to get through the eight. Alaniz’s first pitch of the inning was hammered by La Stella for his second homer of the game. A wild pitch on a third strike allowed David Fletcher to reach first base and he scored on Kole Calhoun’s double into right field to make it 8-1.
“The tack-on runs, that’s what hurt is in the last homestand a little bit,” Servais said. “I think everybody believes in our offense and we certainly believe in our offense. So if you can keep them right there, we always have a chance to come back.”