SEATTLE (AP) — Andrew Albers keeps providing the boost Seattle’s injury-riddled rotation needs to keep the Mariners close in the wild-card chase.
Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer, Mitch Haniger was a double short of the cycle and Albers pitched six scoreless innings as Seattle gained ground in the playoff race with an 8-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.
“He was outstanding,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Albers, acquired from Atlanta on Aug. 11. “I can’t say enough about the job since he’s come in here, his ability to just attack the strike zone. He’s doing it consistently. He’s giving us a chance to win, getting deep in ballgames.”
Albers and the Mariners moved within three games of Minnesota for the second AL wild card. All four teams that were directly ahead of Seattle lost.
Cruz’s 32nd homer capped a six-run fourth as Seattle opened an 8-0 lead. Haniger homered in the first, tripled in the third and singled in the fourth. He grounded out in the sixth and was on deck when the eighth ended.
“I was just trying to do what I do every other at-bat,” Haniger said of his final plate appearance. “Try to drive the ball to the middle of the field and hopefully it gets into a gap, but unfortunately couldn’t haul it in there.”
Albers (4-1) allowed four hits while striking out four and walking one. Casey Lawrence gave up an unearned run in the ninth.
Albers was 12-3 at Triple-A Gwinnett before the trade. Prior to his first victory for the Mariners, he hadn’t won in the majors since Aug. 12, 2013, with Minnesota — a span of 1,463 days.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relishing this right now,” the 31-year-old lefty said. “It’s been a great experience so far. Obviously it helps when you pitch well. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m very appreciative of the place that I’m at right now. I took a weird route to get here, but so happy to be here and contributing right now.”
Angels starter Andrew Heaney (1-2) left in the third after 60 pitches with shoulder soreness.
With Seattle up 2-0, Guillermo Heredia doubled and scored on Jean Segura’s one-out infield single. Haniger’s single loaded the bases, and Carlos Ruiz scored on a passed ball to make it 4-0. Robinson Cano followed with an RBI single and Cruz lined an 0-2 pitch over the left-center wall, giving him an AL-high 107 RBIs.
Haniger staked the Mariners to a 1-0 lead in the first with his 11th homer. He tripled in the third and scored when Cano sliced an opposite-field double down the left-field line.
Albers stranded two runners in the first, then struck out Martin Maldonado to end the fourth with runners at second and third.
“He’s sneaky,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I thought we hit some balls hard. He gave them six strong innings, so you’ve got to give him credit.”
Heaney was removed with one out in the third. He allowed two runs and four hits with two walks in his fifth start since coming off the disabled list. The 26-year-old lefty missed almost all of 2016 and the first 121 games this season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
“It’s just tightness in the back of my shoulder,” Heaney said. “I felt it the last couple of pitches. It’s extremely frustrating. … I’m not very concerned. I’ll come in tomorrow and see how I feel.”
Haniger, who missed 18 games from July 30 to Aug. 18 after getting hit in the face by a 95 mph fastball from Mets ace Jacob deGrom, is hitting .486 over his last nine games with three doubles, a triple, three homers and nine RBIs. “I’ve been feeling good at the plate,” Haniger said. “I think everything’s coming together.”
Scioscia was ejected by plate umpire David Rackley in the fourth following a visit to the mound. “Dave’s a good umpire, but there were a couple of pitches that, obviously, we didn’t agree with,” Scioscia said.
STAN THE MAN
Cano’s third-inning double was his 30th of the year, joining Hall of Famer Stan Musial as the only players with 30 or more doubles in 13 consecutive seasons. Cano is the only player to do it in the first 13 seasons of his career.
Mariners RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, sidelined since early May with right shoulder inflammation, pitched a simulated game but is not ready to return. “He has worked his tail off even to get to the point to where he got today, but we’re kind of running up against it with three weeks left in the season,” Servais said. “From where I saw him last time to where he was today, certainly a positive, but he’s still got a little work to do.” … CF Jarrod Dyson hasn’t played since Sept. 2 after aggravating a groin injury that put him on the DL from Aug. 19-31.
Angels: RHP Parker Bridwell (7-2, 4.00 ERA) closes out the three-game series at Safeco Field. He has lasted just three innings in each of his last two starts, giving up a total of 13 runs, after allowing 13 runs combined over his seven previous starts.
Mariners: RHP Erasmo Ramirez (5-5, 4.35) makes his eighth start since being acquired from Tampa Bay in late July. Ramirez has pitched six innings in each of his last five starts.