Wilhelmsen retires Trout in critical situation

Wilhelmsen retires Trout in critical situation

ANAHEIM -- Tom Wilhelmsen has made many better pitches in his six seasons with the Mariners, but he may never have made a bigger one than Monday's full-count curve to Mike Trout that the Angels star drove deep to left field in the seventh inning, only to see it die in the glove of Norichika Aoki at the warning track.

Wilhelmsen thrust his arms in the air as the ball settled into Aoki's mitt, knowing he'd got away with one as Trout came up just shy with runners on second and third and the Angels trailing by a run. Instead of a three-run blast and a gut punch to the Mariners momentum, Seattle held on for a 3-2 win and Wilhelmsen, well, he found himself standing at his locker later wearing the team's celebratory "Swelmet" awarded by third base coach Manny Acta to the key player following every win.

"I fell behind everybody and now I get the Swelmet on Felix's 150th win and Nelson Cruz dropping moon-landing shots," Wilhelmsen said with a wry smile from underneath the blue-painted Darth Vader helmet. "It was great to get a win today. They're all good, but on this day especially."

Wilhelmsen was rightfully in a good mood after helping the Mariners win for the 11th time in their past 13 games. When things are going well, good things seem to keep happening. And seeing Trout tee off on a poorly-placed 82-mph curve over the heart of the plate, but not get rewarded with his second homer of the game, was cause for joy in the Mariners clubhouse.

"I thought it was well struck," Wilhelmsen said. "I like to send things out to the universe, but the last thing I wanted to say was, 'Oh man, I gave it up.' [The curve is] not really a great pitch for him, but it was the only one I seemed able to control today, so I went with it and luckily for me, maybe he didn't hit the weight room today."

Wilhelmsen replaced Felix Hernandez with runners on first and second and two out after Hernandez had surrendered a 445-foot blast to Trout earlier in the game. Trout has owned Hernandez over the years, but is 1-for-12 with two walks and four strikeouts in his career vs. Wilhelmsen.

So even after a passed ball put the runners on second and third, Wilhelmsen chose to pitch to Trout on a 3-2 count rather than walk him and face Albert Pujols.

"I've faced him many, many times," Wilhelmsen said. "This whole team, Pujols as well. I didn't want to give in to him. We had a base open, but at the same time, I've gotten him out more times than he's got on base and I'm pretty confident with that."

Wilhelmsen's story has been remarkable this season. He was released by the Rangers after putting up a 10.55 ERA in 21 games, but has shined in Seattle with a 1.65 ERA and has stranded 15 of 16 inherited runners in 18 games after re-signing with his long-time Mariners team.

"It's crazy," manager Scott Servais said. "Obviously the numbers he's got with traffic on, he's been that guy since we brought him over. I just think the experience he's had in the league and kind of how he approaches it, he doesn't look at any situation as being too big. He tries to minimize it and just make his pitches.

"Not only that, but what he's added to our bullpen and the clubhouse, the personality and happy-go-lucky, fun-to-be-here. He's the Bartender. There's many a night you wonder what he's going to mix up, but tonight it was just enough."

And Wilhelmsen is relishing every minute of his Mariners reunion.

"It's arguably the most fun I've had with my stint here," said the 32-year-old. "Winning is always a lot of fun. And to win games like this, we have a tight group in the bullpen. But not just that, it's everyone. We're feeding off each other's energy and everyone is contributing. It's a lot of fun.

"And here I am wearing the Swelmet," he said with a smile. "This is a real thing. First reliever to get one, by the way."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.