Angels' shorthanded 'pen passes first big test

Relievers allow 1 run over final 4 frames to secure 3-2 win

Angels' shorthanded 'pen passes first big test

ANAHEIM -- In the Angels' first game without both of their two key relievers, closer Huston Street and setup man Joe Smith, they had to rely on their bullpen to get 12 outs. Jered Weaver, who started Sunday's finale against the Mariners at Angel Stadium, had to leave after five innings with right shoulder stiffness -- and the Angels' relief arms came up big in a 3-2 win.

With the Angels taking a closer-by-committee approach in Street and Smith's absence -- Smith is out with a sprained left ankle and Street is likely done for the regular season with a left groin strain -- Mike Morin got the first crack at the ninth inning, and he converted his first career save with a 1-2-3 frame.

Morin, along with rookie Trevor Gott, former Cardinals closer Fernando Salas and lefty specialist Jose Alvarez, are key bullpen pieces for the Angels as they try to make the postseason. After sweeping the Mariners, they trail the Astros by a 1/2 game for a Wild Card spot and the Rangers by three games in the American League West.

"All these guys just are doing a tremendous job," manager Mike Scioscia said. "And it's fueling our resurgence into this race."

Entering the season, Morin was expected to possibly lock down the seventh-inning role, but he missed significant time due to injury and was ineffective when he did pitch, posting a 7.43 ERA in 29 games through the end of August. But in 14 appearances in September, he's allowed just one run.

"Mike has turned his season around," Scioscia said. "He's pitching as well as we've ever seen him. It's an important part of our 'pen right now."

When Morin was rehabbing in the Minors in August, he said he fixed a timing mechanism during his windup -- when he taps his hands twice -- that's helped him smooth out his delivery.

"It obviously hasn't been the year that I had hoped and planned for, but I'm throwing the ball well right now and was able to help the team win today," Morin said.

He wasn't the only one to step up on Sunday. Gott was down after pitching in the series' first two games, but Cory Rasmus pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Weaver and Cesar Ramos got two lefties out. Salas had the only hiccup, allowing former Angel Mark Trumbo's game-tying home run in the eighth, but once the Angels regained the lead, Morin shut things down.

The Angels hope that Smith might return before the end of the regular season, and Street could potentially pitch during the playoffs, but for now, the bullpen committee has to shoulder the load, and it did on Sunday.

"The better they pitch, the better chance I've got of coming back and helping this team down the stretch," Street said. "The boys keep winning games like they did today, the bullpen's stepping up, and that's exciting to see."

David Adler is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.