SEATTLE -- Rookie left fielder Ben Gamel provided the pop and the glove on Friday as the Mariners topped the Angels, 4-3, in the series opener at Safeco Field to keep their fading American League WIld Card playoff hopes alive.
Gamel hit a three-run homer in the second to overcome the Halos' early 2-0 lead and then robbed Brandon Phillips of a home run in the sixth when he hauled in a drive at the top of the wall to help snap Seattle's three-game losing streak.
"I just knew I had to go up and get it," Gamel said of what turned out to be a game-saving catch. "I had a pretty good jump off the bat. I was playing a little deeper. And I knew I had time. I had [center fielder Guillermo Heredia] and the bullpen yelling, so I pretty much knew exactly where I was."
The loss dropped the Angels two games back of the Twins -- who won 8-5 at Kansas City -- for the second Wild Card position at 72-69. The Mariners leapfrogged the Rays and Royals in the crowded playoff pursuit, but are still four games back of Minnesota at 70-71.
"It was a nice, clean ballgame," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "[I] thought our guys were into it, loose and having a good time. We've got nothing to lose. Just go play."
Mariners right-hander Mike Leake gave up a two-run single to Justin Upton in the first before settling in and going six frames with three runs (two earned) on six hits.
Leake is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts since being acquired from the Cardinals.
Upton went 2-for-4 with the two RBIs and also scored a run in the sixth on an Albert Pujols' base hit. Mike Trout doubled and scored in the first, but saw his franchise-record streak of 15 straight games with a walk come to an end in a 1-for-4 night.
Angels starter Ricky Nolasco lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and four runs on 91 pitches in falling to 6-13 with a 5.19 ERA. The Mariners winning run came when Robinson Cano doubled on a ball that deflected off the first-base bag with two out in the third, then scored on Mitch Haniger's RBI single.
"He looked like he had good life on his fastball," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But, just had trouble getting to a certain point of a game, he was working hard to get to that, but he gets 11 outs and six hits, two walks and you got eight baserunners in less than four innings. [That's] a lot of traffic."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gamel gets one: The 25-year-old rookie hadn't homered since a five-RBI outing on Aug. 28, going 2-for-25 with one RBI in seven games since. But the 25-year-old from Florida sailed a three-run shot into the right-field seats on a 1-2 splitter from Nolasco to give Seattle a 3-2 lead in the second. Singles by Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino set the table for Gamel's eighth homer of the year. It was the 34th homer given up by Nolasco, one behind the MLB lead of 35 by Seattle's Ariel Miranda and Boston's Rick Porcello.
"I did everything I wanted, but he just barreled it," Nolasco said. "He made a good adjustment. Nothing you can do but tip your cap. He won that one."
What a relief: Both managers made liberal use of their September-bolstered bullpens and the Mariners wound up getting three scoreless frames from five relievers to close out the win. Servais employed three relievers -- Ryan Garton, James Pazos and Emilio Pagan -- to get a 1-2-3 seventh. Nick Vincent gave up a one-out single to Phillips in the eighth, but got Trout on a fly out to right and struck out Upton before Edwin Diaz came on for his 32nd save, wiggling out of trouble after Pujols laced a leadoff single off the wall in left-center. Scioscia also used four relievers to rack up 4 1/3 scoreless innings after Nolasco's early departure, with Yusmeiro Petit striking out five in two scoreless frames.
"I got behind in the count with Pujols and just tried to throw a strike," said Diaz, who bounced back from a tough loss in his last outing against the Astros on Wednesday when he gave up a game-winning home run to Cameron Maybin. "He hit it pretty good. I thought it was a homer. When the wall saved me, I said 'I've got them now.' I made my pitches after that. My fastball was down and my slider was good. This was a good win today."
"The difference in the game is where the ball hits the base. But then again, I didn't do a good job of controlling the game with two outs." -- Nolasco on Cano's quirky double to extend the bottom of the third and set up Haniger's RBI single
"Eddie is always going to bounce back. He's got great stuff and an electric arm. Pujols put a good swing on him. You can kind of tell when Albert is tracking guys and he was tracking Eddie pretty good before that. Luckily for us, it stayed in the ballpark. We needed a couple breaks, hadn't gotten a lately, and after that he went to work." -- Servais on Diaz's save, which included strikeouts of Kole Calhoun and Luis Valbuena to strand pinch-runner Eric Young Jr. at second base
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Cano's double was his 29th of the season. He needs one more to tie Stan Musial as the only players with 30 doubles in 13 straight seasons.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels:Andrew Heaney (1-1, 6.98 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season since returning from Tommy John surgery on Aug. 18 when he faces the Mariners on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. PT. He's coming off a rough outing against the Rangers, in which he allowed five runs on six hits while walking four and striking out five in 3 1/3 innings and was charged with his first loss of the year.
Mariners:Andrew Albers (3-1, 3.43 ERA) makes his fifth start in place of the injured James Paxton in Saturday's 6:10 p.m. PT game. The 31-year-old Canadian lefty has been impressive and allowed just one hit -- a solo homer -- in six innings in a victory over the A's in his last outing. This will be his first time facing the Angels.