Valbuena caps late rally, lifts Angels past Mariners
ANAHEIM, Calif. — There are a couple of ways of looking at the Los Angeles Angels’ franchise record-tying 47 comeback wins this season.
On the good side, it shows a resilience and never-say-die attitude that certainly is a positive trait.
On the bad side, it means you’re falling behind often in games, and you can’t put together a winning rally every night.
However, Friday night’s game at Angel Stadium worked out in the Angels’ favor, Luis Valbuena’s two-out, two-run pinch-hit double capping a four-run eighth inning to help the Angels rally for a 6-5 win over the Seattle Mariners.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Angels center fielder Mike Trout, who got the rally started in the eighth inning with the second of his two home runs. “We’re still trying to finish strong. Obviously we got eliminated from the playoffs but you can always take some momentum into next year and spring training, and come out tomorrow and try to win another one.”
For Trout, the two home runs were his 32nd and 33rd, his second multi-homer game of the season. They were also the 200th and 201st in his career, as Trout joined Tim Salmon (299), Garret Anderson (272) and Brian Downing as the only players in Angels history to hit at least 200.
Trout’s homer against Mariners reliever Nick Vincent to lead off the eighth cut Seattle’s lead to 5-3. Albert Pujols doubled and later scored on C.J. Cron’s two-out single to make it 5-4.
Kole Calhoun followed with an infield single off Marc Rzepczynski before Valbuena stepped to the plate to face Edwin Diaz.
Valbuena hit a fly ball that landed only a few feet inside the right-field line near the foul pole, scoring Calhoun and pinch runner Eric Young Jr.
“Vinny’s been our eighth inning guy all year,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Vincent. “He’s running on fumes, we know that. But where we’re at in the ballgame tonight, we wanted to give him a chance to go out there and knock it down. He made a mistake to Trout and ran into some trouble.
“We just couldn’t put them away. We had two strikes on Cron, two strikes on Calhoun, two strikes on Valbuena. Give those guys credit, they put the ball in play and hit them in good spots.”
The Mariners got home runs from Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino to power their way to a 5-2 lead before things unraveled against their bullpen. The Angels 47 comeback wins this year not only tied the club record set in 2009, it also leads the majors.
“It doesn’t matter what the circumstance is, we feel like we can come back down whatever,” Trout said. “We’re going to keep grinding and fighting until that last out.”
Cruz’s home run also moved him closer to a noteworthy achievement. With 39 homers, he needs one more in the final two games to have four consecutive 40-homer seasons. The last player to do it was Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard from 2006-09.
“He said to me, probably a week ago, ‘I’m not worried about that (40 homers), I’m just going to have good at-bats,’” Servais said of Cruz. “He’s got the kind of swing and he’s so strong that if he does have good at-bats and he squares it up, good things are going to happen.”
Marco Gonzales started for Seattle and gave up two runs and four hits in four innings.
Angels reliever Blake Wood (2-0) earned the victory over Rzepczynski (2-2). Blake Parker pitched the ninth for the Angels to close it out and earn his eighth save.
Trout’s first-inning homer off Gonzales gave the Angels a 1-0 lead. Meanwhile, Angels starter Tyler Skaggs held the Mariners scoreless through three innings before Cruz and Seager homered back to back to lead off the fourth, giving Seattle a 2-1 lead.
The Angels tied the score at 2 in the bottom of the fourth after Andrelton Simmons led off with a single and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Cliff Pennington.
But Seattle regained the lead on the fifth on an RBI single by Robinson Cano, making it 3-2 and knocking Skaggs out of the game.
Skaggs went 4 2/3 innings and allowed three runs, six hits and one walk while striking out seven.
NOTES: Mariners RHP Hisashi Iwakuma had surgery on his right shoulder on Wednesday after missing most of the season with shoulder inflammation. He is expected be able to start throwing again in five months, a couple weeks after pitchers and catchers report to spring training. The Mariners have a club option for next season on Iwakuma, 36, who went 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA in six starts this year. They can re-sign him for $10 million or buy him out for $1 million. ... The Angels have committed 79 errors this season, four less than the club record for fewest errors in a full season (83 in 2014). Their 99 errorless games are the most in the American League.