Mariners manager Scott Servais calls it a “high sky,” that time of night when the baseball tends to disappear somewhere between the ballpark lights and a starless sky.
Luis Rengifo’s two-out popup in the ninth inning seemed to be a routine play, keeping Seattle in a crisp, competitive game that had been tied since the fourth on Saturday. But that high sky caused problems for inexperienced first baseman Tim Beckham and reliever Roenis Elías as the ball dropped between them, and the Los Angeles Angels rallied for four runs in a 6-2 victory that reinforced season trends for both teams.
“When the ball goes up, if you take your eye off it for a second or if you don’t see it right away, panic sets in,” Servais said. “That’s what happened, from my take. The guys feel terrible about it. They know, they know they’ve got to make those plays. That’s an out that’s got to be had at that point in the game.”
Though it wasn’t ruled an error, the play joined a long list of fielding mistakes that have cost the Mariners several games this season as they’ve booted their way to the most errors in the majors. David Fletcher followed Rengifo’s infield single with a two-strike single to right field that scored Kole Calhoun with the go-ahead run.
Mike Trout added a three-run homer, and the Mariners were left shaking their heads over another lost opportunity.
“We’re professionals and you’re held accountable and the play should be made,” said Beckham, who moved from left field to first base shortly before the popup.
When asked who was calling for the ball, Beckham responded: “The play should be made.”
Fletcher’s single gave Los Angeles a 3-2 lead, and Trout connected off Elías (2-2) for his AL-leading 31st home run. The two-time MVP also tops the league with 78 RBIs. He entered the ninth with two strikeouts in the game.
“They got me with some good pitches, just in the ninth I got a pitch I could do damage with,” Trout said.
Held without a baserunner until the ninth inning of a 10-0 loss Friday night, the Angels bounced back and stopped a three-game skid. Seattle lost for the seventh time in eight games.
It was Rengifo who singled in the ninth Friday for the Angels’ only hit, ending Mike Leake’s run at a perfect game. That was Seattle’s lone victory since the All-Star break.
“Ever since he came up he’s been a big bat in the lineup,” Trout said. “He’s a tough out. He’s been big for us this year.”
Angels starter Griffin Canning gave up four hits and two runs through the first three innings, but settled in and lasted five. He had six strikeouts and combined with four relievers to hold the Mariners hitless over the last six innings.
Canning said his struggles in the first two innings — he gave up a sacrifice fly to Dee Gordon and an RBI single to Omar Narvaez to fall behind 2-0 — were solved with a simple adjustment.
“Baseball’s so frustrating,” Canning said. “Tonight, I just moved over on the rubber, just kind of got more centered on the rubber. Honestly, I don’t even know if it did anything. I think it put me in the right mindset that I needed to be in, but it was definitely something to build off of in the last two innings.”
He struck out at least one batter in each inning, bringing his total to 77 — a franchise record for the first 14 games of a career.
Ty Buttrey (6-4) struck out the side in the eighth for the win. He finished off the third batter of the inning, Daniel Vogelbach, on three pitches. Vogelbach whiffed four times in the game.
“His command got significantly better, in addition to the stuff that he already had,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said of Canning. “And I’ve said it all year long: We’re very confident in that bullpen. There’s a lot of guys down there we feel can get outs. Right-handed hitter, left-handed hitter, it doesn’t matter.”
Angels: LHP Andrew Heaney was placed on the 10-day injured list for the second time this season with shoulder inflammation. Heaney was expected to be a big contributor this year, but he already missed 51 games with left elbow inflammation. He is 1-3 in nine starts. Los Angeles manager Brad Ausmus said Heaney had an MRI and probably just needs rest. “We’re concerned about it because he’s a pitcher and it’s his shoulder,” Ausmus said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be anything surgical or anything like that. I just think it’s somewhat of a tired, irritated shoulder.” Heaney is the third starter the Angels have lost in the last few weeks with the death of Tyler Skaggs and the move to designate Matt Harvey for assignment.
Mariners: Relief pitcher Dan Altavilla threw before the game for the first time since he injured his right elbow. He’s still probably a few weeks from returning.
Angels: LHP Dillon Peters (1-0, 4.15 ERA) will be promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake to start Sunday in place of Heaney.
Mariners: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (4-6, 5.01) is 1-2 with a 10.91 ERA in four starts against the Angels.
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