SEATTLE -- The Angels couldn't have asked for anyone better to step up to the plate with the game on the line.
After the Mariners scored three runs to tie the game in the eighth, the Angels mounted a rally against Seattle closer Edwin Diaz, loading the bases with two outs in the ninth. That brought up superstar Mike Trout, who ripped a three-run double just inside the left-field line to propel the Angels to a 6-3 win in Thursday night's series opener at Safeco Field.
"He's the best player in the game," left-hander Tyler Skaggs said. "You don't want anyone else up. He just put his team on his back. Very simple."
Trout's heroics helped the Angels (58-58) climb back to .500 and pull within one game of the Mariners and the Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.
"We know they're in front of us," Trout said of the Mariners. "This series is big, especially four games. We just need to come in tomorrow, take this momentum that we have today. We keep picking each other up. There's not one guy in here that isn't part of this. We're all in it, and we come to the ballpark ready to win."
The Angels had appeared to be on their way to a win on Thursday after Skaggs fired 6 1/3 scoreless innings and Andrelton Simmons and C.J. Cron homered off Mariners ace James Paxton, but the night when awry in the bottom of the eighth. Struggling right-hander Bud Norris entered the game and surrendered a solo home run to Jean Segura, followed by a game-tying, two-run blast to Nelson Cruz.
The Mariners subsequently sent the flame-throwing Diaz to the mound in the ninth, but he fell into trouble after issuing back-to-back walks to Cliff Pennington and Kole Calhoun to start the inning. After Martin Maldonado failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt and Ben Revere grounded into a force out, Cameron Maybin also walked to load the bases.
"When a guy throws that hard and you have the discipline to lay off close pitches, you're seeing the ball well," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our guys did that inning."
Up stepped Trout, who took a fastball before pouncing on a slider from Diaz.
"I was looking for a pitch to hit," Trout said. "I was kind of undecided in the first pitch, so I just wanted to see one. After that, I just saw the slider pop up and hit a double."
Since coming off the disabled list on July 14, Trout has hit safely in 21 of his last 24 games, batting .367 with 17 runs scored, four doubles, seven home runs, 19 RBIs and three stolen bases. Despite missing 39 games with a torn thumb ligament, Trout is making a case for his third AL MVP award, and his performance will be key for the Angels as they continue their playoff push down the stretch.
"I think we're a team to be reckoned with," Skaggs said.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.