Cruz, Albers help Seattle improve WC stock

Cruz, Albers help Seattle improve WC stock

SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz hammered a three-run home run, and Mitch Haniger finished a double short of the cycle as the Mariners rolled over the Angels, 8-1, on Saturday night at Safeco Field.

The Mariners gained ground in the American League Wild Card chase while the Angels failed to capitalize with the Twins, currently in possession of the second Wild Card spot, falling to the Royals. The Mariners improved to three games back of the Twins while the Angels are two games back.

"I think the thing with our club where we're at right now is we've got nothing to lose," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "We're going to go out and have fun, we're going to play with energy and see where the chips fall."

AL Wild Card standings

Cruz's line-drive homer came in the fourth inning off Angels' reliever Jesse Chavez to cap off a six-run inning in which the Mariners batted around. The homer was hit with an exit velocity of 114.1 mph and a launch angle of 15 degrees, the lowest angle on an over-the-fence home run this season.

"I don't think Cruz could hit a ball any harder than the one he hit out," Servais said. "It was an absolute missle."

Mariners' six-run inning

Mariners starter Andrew Albers pitched six scoreless innings, scattering four hits and fanning four to post his third quality start in five outings since being acquired from the Braves on Aug. 12.

"He's sneaky," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He got some up. He elevated when he had to. I thought we hit some balls hard. But he gave them six strong innings, so you've got to give him credit."

Angels starter Andrew Heaney lasted 2 1/3 innings before being leaving with a sore left shoulder. He allowed two runs on four hits while striking out three and walking two. The Angels will see how Heaney feels over the next few days before figuring out the next steps.

Heaney exits with sore shoulder

"I felt it the last couple pitches," Heaney said. "Obviously, if they're going to come out there, they're going to be extremely cautious with everything, so I tried to argue and it wasn't going to happen. I know they're looking out for my safety and well-being. It's obviously just extremely frustrating."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Haniger stays hot: The Mariners' rookie outfielder vaulted Seattle to an early lead by launching a solo home run into the Mariners' bullpen in left-center field in the first. He tripled in his next at-bat in the third and later added a single. After his 3-for-4 night, he's hitting .486 with an OPS of 1.378 in his last nine games with nine RBIs and three home runs.

"I've been feeling good at the plate," Haniger said. "Just working on my swing daily with Edgar [Martinez] and [Servais] and get better everyday."

Haniger opens the scoring

Good under pressure: Albers' six shutout innings didn't come without drama. He escaped two jams, the first came in the opening frame when he struck out C.J. Cron to strand Brandon Phillips at first and Albert Pujols at second. The second jam was in the fourth after issuing a two-out walk to Andrelton Simmons and serving up a double to Kole Calhoun to move two runners into scoring position, but he struck out Martin Maldonado on three pitches to escape unscathed.

"He does not back off," Servais said. "And he knows he's going to give up a few hits here and there. But when he gets on a roll and he finds what secondary pitch is really working, he threw some curveballs late in the game, he got some big outs with his changeup -- which isn't necessarily his best secondary pitch, it's usually his slider. But he's willing to try them all and see what works on a given night and read what the hitters are doing as well." More >>

Albers' scoreless start

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Robinson Cano collected his 30th double of the season on Saturday, good for his 13th consecutive season with 30 or more doubles. He joined Hall of Famer Stan Musial as the only players with as many consecutive seasons with 30 or more doubles and the first to accomplish that feat in his first 13 seasons of his career.

Cano's RBI double

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Mariners challenged a play at second base in the fourth inning, where it was initially ruled that Pujols beat the tag from Cano while attempting to stretch a single into a double after lacing a ball into the left-center field gap. The replay crew eventually overturned the call and ruled that he was out.

Mariners nab Pujols at second

SCIOSCIA EJECTED
Scioscia was ejected in the fourth inning by home plate umpire David Rackley. It's his second ejection of the season.

Scioscia gets tossed

WHAT'S NEXT
Angels: Right-hander Parker Bridwell (7-2, 4.00) takes the mound in Sunday's finale after a no-decision in his last start on Monday at Oakland. Bridwell gave up six runs on seven hits in three-plus innings in that outing, but overall the Angels are 14-2 in the 16 games he has pitched in this season.

Mariners: Erasmo Ramirez (5-5, 4.35) will get the ball for the final game of the three-game series. He's posted five consecutive quality starts dating back to Aug. 12 and has posted a 2.40 ERA during that stretch.

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Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.

Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.