Angels' run in Seattle cut down by Iwakuma

Angels' run in Seattle cut down by Iwakuma

Angels' run in Seattle cut down by Iwakuma
SEATTLE -- The Angels lost on Sunday afternoon, getting stifled by Japanese rookie import Hisashi Iwakuma, missing several chances with runners in scoring position and ultimately sustaining a 2-1 defeat to the Mariners at Safeco Field.

But, as Albert Pujols said postgame, "Ain't the most important thing to win the series? We got that."

The Angels got more than that, actually. They won the first two of a weekend set against the Mariners to give them five straight victories for the first time in three months and have won nine of their last 12 despite the recent setback. But all they gained from that was one game, going from 4 1/2 back of the second American League Wild Card spot to 3 1/2.

To make the playoffs in this final month, all the Angels need to do is beat the teams in front of them.

And now, they'll get their chance.

On Monday, the Angels will conclude a six-game road trip with a three-game series against a surprising Athletics team that has won nine straight and is 5 1/2 games better than them. They'll play the A's in seven of the next 10 games, with those other three coming against a Tigers team that's also in their way.

"Every game's important now," Jered Weaver said, after taking the loss in a 5 1/3-inning outing in which he gave up two runs and exited in large part due to a liner that hit his right shoulder. "We're getting down to the nitty-gritty where we need to win some games. We went on a nice little run there ... but at the same time, we can't dig ourselves in a bigger hole. Every win's important."

Including a potential one on Sunday, which the Angels couldn't get because Iwakuma pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings and the offense started off 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position -- after hitting .295 in that situation during a five-game winning streak.

The Angels finally broke through in the ninth, when Howie Kendrick hit a two-out RBI single to left field, then stole second base to put the tying run in scoring position. But Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen got Erick Aybar to fly out to left field, capping a game in which the Angels missed what few opportunities they had.

"We did have a lot of opportunities; we just didn't come through," said Pujols, who was stranded on second in the fourth and helped strand someone else on second in the sixth. "That's the way it goes. It's part of the game."

"We hit the ball hard today," Kendrick added, "just right at people."

Weaver took a Dustin Ackley line drive to the back of his right shoulder with one out in the fifth inning. He finished the frame, after throwing a couple of warmup pitches, but exited after giving up a one-out single and a walk in the sixth.

Weaver was the tough-luck loser despite surrendering only a couple of homers -- while giving up eight hits and walking four in an 86-pitch outing -- but was lucky because Ackley's liner nipped his glove and caught mostly muscle, no bone.

The Angels don't expect him to miss his next start. At least not at the moment.

"He could've stayed in the game, he felt like he could pitch, but this is something that's going to get sore as time goes on," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I'm sure it's going to stiffen up tonight, and we'll see how it sets up tomorrow."

Weaver, who moved to 16-4 with a 2.86 ERA, wasn't feeling good long before the comebacker.

"I didn't feel very good in the bullpen and I knew it was going to be a battle going into it," Weaver said. "I was able to battle for the most part. Obviously made a couple of bad pitches for homers, but I was able to make some pitches when I needed to. The other guy was pretty good on the other side. He threw a heck of a game."

Iwakuma came in with a 2.72 ERA in 10 starts, had given up just one earned run in his last 20 2/3 innings and had already beaten the Angels once this season, tossing seven innings of three-run ball against them on Aug. 11. In the finale, the 31-year-old rookie from Japan gave up just five hits, walked none and struck out seven in the first scoreless start of his Major League career.

Heading in, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game in the second half.

"When you're facing good-hitting ballclubs, last thing you want to do is pick [at corners] because you end up getting behind, getting in hitter's counts and they'll make you pay for it," Mariners skipper Eric Wedge said. "[Iwakuma] did a good job of staying aggressive, staying down in the zone, using both sides of the plate. Got some swing-throughs, some foul balls on some pitches up in the zone, too, climbing the ladder a little bit. He did a little bit of everything out there today."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.