SEATTLE -- Albert Pujols came up with the big hit for a second straight night Saturday as the Angels again rallied against the Mariners' bullpen for a 6-3 win at Safeco Field that vaulted them into sole possession of the No. 2 Wild Card position in the American League.
The Angels equaled their season-best five-game win streak and have won 11 of their past 15 games to hike their record to 60-58, a half-game ahead of the Twins for the final playoff spot. Seattle dropped a game back at 59-59 with its third straight loss to the Angels.
Pujols broke a 3-3 tie with his two-run double off reliever Tony Zych in the eighth and Andrelton Simmons added a sacrifice fly. The Angels trailed, 3-1, until Luis Valbuena's two-run homer in the seventh.
"This is a tough season that we've been through, and now we finally gained a spot," Angels starter JC Ramirez said. "People that weren't hitting, now they're hitting. Pitchers that weren't doing very well, now they're doing good. I think that's the kind of team we are. Now we just need to continue doing it. I think that's the kind of team we're supposed to be since the beginning of the season."
Kyle Seager continued his second-half surge with a home run and two RBIs and Nelson Cruz tallied his AL-leading 93rd RBI on a third-inning single, but that was all the Mariners could muster in front of a sellout crowd of 45,388 on Edgar Martinez's number-retirement night at Safeco Field.
Erasmo Ramirez gave the Mariners' injury-ravaged rotation a boost by allowing just one unearned run on three hits over six innings in by far his best outing since being acquired from the Rays on July 28. But Seattle's bullpen, which had been among the best in the Majors over the previous three months, gave up five runs in the final three frames and has allowed 12 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings in the series.
"The story of our season, we've been up and down," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "We were on a really good high here, we played great on the road trip. Coming back home, our bullpen which has been so good the majority of the year, we've stubbed our toe. The last couple nights with [closer Edwin DIaz] down changes how we look at the bullpen. But that's where we're at. We've got to figure out how to win games. We've got to figure out how to finish games."
Angels starter JC Ramirez (10-10, 4.26 ERA) allowed seven hits and three runs over his five-inning outing, but for a second straight night the Halos' bullpen closed out with four scoreless frames.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Valbuena answers: The Mariners were cruising with a 3-1 lead until Casey Lawrence replaced Erasmo Ramirez in the seventh and gave up a one-out single to C.J. Cron, followed by Valbuena's two-run shot to right field. Valbuena is hitting just .188 on the season, but he's done damage when given opportunities as 11 of his last 16 hits have gone for extra bases, with four doubles and seven homers.
"Luis is going to drive the ball," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's going to take his walks when they're there. He's never been an extraordinarily high average hitter, but his OPS is really good against right-handed pitching, and I think he's showing that. ... He's hit some big home runs. That's a huge home run tonight to get us back into the game. He's working hard and he's getting some big hits for us, and we're going to need him."
Not so fast, Yonder: The Mariners tried to break the 3-3 tie in the seventh when first baseman Yonder Alonso attempted to score from first on a double off Jesse Chavez into the right-center gap by Robinson Cano. Alonso, acquired from the A's a week ago, had his first two-hit day for Seattle. But the 30-year-old was easily thrown out at the plate on a strong relay from right fielder Kole Calhoun to shortstop Simmons to catcher Martin Maldonado. Cano moved to third on the throw, but was stranded there when Keynan Middleton replaced Chavez and retired Cruz on a broken-bat grounder to short.
"That's a huge play," Scioscia said. "You've got two tremendous arms in Kole Calhoun and Andrelton at short and Maldy made a nice pick and tag. That's a huge play for us at the time, no doubt."
"Good call, bad call? Obviously it didn't work out in our favor," Servais said of the decision to send Alonso. "Andrelton Simmons has a tremendous throwing arm, one of the best in the league on the relay throw. He made a great throw right on the button. That was a big out in the game at that time."
"You're going to always have ups and downs and you don't like to see any guys go down. But you just have to show up the next day and be ready to go and we're going to do that." -- Zych on the Mariners run of pitching injuries that have put pressure on the rotation and bullpen.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Saturday's matchup between JC Ramirez and Erasmo Ramirez marked the first duel between Nicaraguan-born pitchers since July 4, 1984, when the Orioles' Dennis Martinez battled the Twins' Albert Williams.
"It was cool," JC Ramirez said. "For a second, I thought about it. A lot of people at home are watching the game, all my friends. Erasmo's mom texted me, too."
The three runs allowed by Zych were the most he's ever allowed in his career and the first time he'd allowed multiple runs in an outing since April 12, 2016.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Maldonado led off the ninth with a ground-rule double and then got caught in a rundown after trying to advance to third on Kaleb Cowart's comebacker to right-hander Christian Bergman. After tagging out Maldonado at third, Seager threw to second to nab Cowart, allowing the Mariners to complete a 1-6-5-4 double play. The Angels challenged that Seager had applied a tag on Maldonado, but the ruling was upheld following a replay review.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Rookie right-hander Parker Bridwell (6-1, 3.00 ERA) will take the mound for the Angels as they close out their four-game series against the Mariners on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. PT at Safeco Field. The Angels are 10-1 in games Bridwell has pitched this season.
Mariners:Ariel Miranda (7-5, 4.65 ERA) makes his team-leading 24th start in Sunday's series finale. The 28-year-old lefty has struggled of late, going 0-1 with a 7.16 ERA in his last six starts.