SEATTLE -- Mike Trout robbed a grand slam on his 25th birthday, but it wasn't enough to keep his Angels from being swept in Seattle.
Backed by a strong, injury-halted start from James Paxton and a big fourth-inning rally, the Mariners held on for a 3-1 victory over their division rivals from Safeco Field on Sunday, giving them three straight victories on a weekend dedicated to Hall of Fame center fielder Ken Griffey Jr.
"We're starting to see him emerge before our eyes," Mariners manager Scott Servis said of Paxton.
Paxton gave up only one unearned run through the first eight innings, took the ball for the ninth and got Jefry Marte to fly out. The next batter, Andrelton Simmons, smoked a line drive that hit Paxton squarely in his left elbow, forcing him to leave the game. Tom Wilhelmsen checked in and recorded the next two outs to record the save, and initial X-rays on Paxton's arm came back negative.
Paxton scattered five hits and issued one walk before exiting, recording six strikeouts -- four of them against Trout -- to drop his ERA to 3.53. The Mariners picked up all three of their runs against Matt Shoemaker in the fourth, and would've had three more if not for Trout's home-run-robbing catch against Leonys Martin.
"He didn't knock any in, but he took a few away from us with the way he played the outfield today," Servais said of Trout. "Pretty spectacular defensive day he had out there."
Seattle improved to 57-53, jumping ahead of the Astros for second place in the American League West and staying seven games back of the first-place Rangers. The Angels fell to 49-62, suffering their ninth loss in their last 11 road games.
"Paxton had good stuff and pitched a strong game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Shoe had his back against the wall. In the fourth inning, we made some nice defensive plays to keep ourselves in it, but those guys kept pressuring us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Birthday robbery: Trout homered in three of his first four birthdays in the Major Leagues, and on his fifth he took a big one away. With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, Trout ranged to the center-field fence, exploded off the warning track and put his elbow up above the padding to take a grand slam away from Martin. Trout made the catch to cap a weekend in which the Mariners honored Griffey, with his No. 24 spray-painted on the lawn in center field. On both Friday and Saturday, Trout hit first-inning three-run homers. More >
"It was hit well," Trout said of Martin's ball. "Off the bat, I thought it was gone. I just got back to the wall, timed it right and caught it."
No homer, no problem: The recently homer-happy Mariners manufactured three runs without a long ball and despite Trout's catch. They started the fourth inning with three consecutive singles from Seth Smith, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz. Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun almost made a diving catch on Cruz's line drive, but the ball popped out of his mitt and Smith scored. Adam Lind was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Martin, who begrudgingly ended up with a sacrifice fly. Mike Freeman, recalled from Triple-A Tacoma Sunday, drove in the third run of the inning for his first big league RBI.
Leaving him stranded: Angels catcher Jett Bandy began the seventh inning with a double, but did not score. Gregorio Petit struck out, and Johnny Giavotella and Shane Robinson each flied out to right field. The Angels finished only 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and have featured a very top-heavy lineup these days. Entering the game, their top three hitters -- Calhoun, Trout and Albert Pujols, respectively -- had combined for 114 extra-base hits this season. Their bottom six had combined for 90.
Striking out Trout: Paxton became the first pitcher ever to strike Trout out four times in one game. The lefty was on track to throw a complete game before a hard comebacker hit him on the left arm and he was forced to leave the game. He threw 113 pitches, 80 of which were strikes. In Paxton's initial medical examination after the game, the X-rays came back negative and he was diagnosed with a contusion on his left elbow. He will be examined again on Monday. Trout is 2-for-20 with 10 strikeouts in his career against Paxton. More >
"I can't pick his stuff up, I don't know," Trout said. "Just not picking it up, not getting my foot down."
"He deserves to get struck out four times after robbing us, Leonys, of four RBIs. Just incredible catch. and I've seen him do that against us numerous times. and I've got to say I'm pretty fed up with it." -- Wilhelmsen, on Trout's exploits
A fighter jet flyover stunned the 44,812 fans at Safeco Field and most of the players on the field -- except one. Shoemaker was operating from the stretch when the flyover occurred in the bottom of the third, with two on, none out and Shawn O'Malley batting. But he didn't even flinch, and he threw a strike.
"That's the nice thing when you're pretty focused and locked in," said Shoemaker, who hit three batters. "I did hear it, but I was like, 'Hey, I'm locked in on this pitch.' I'm not stepping off. I just went with the pitch."
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: The Angels are off on Monday, then start a two-game series against the Cubs from Wrigley Field. Jered Weaver (8-8, 5.11 ERA) will face off against his former teammate and mentor, John Lackey (4-8, 5.23 ERA). First pitch is set for 5:05 p.m. PT.
Mariners: The Mariners continue their 10-game homestand with a three-game series against the Tigers beginning Monday. Hisashi Iwakuma (12-7, 3.99 ERA) will get the ball for Seattle, making his 23rd start of the season. Michael Fullmer (9-2, 2.42 ERA) will oppose him. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PT.