© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
09/22/07 9:02 PM ET
Angels denied by Mariners
One win from clinching AL West title, LA falls to Seattle
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Opportunity lost was the downbeat theme of the day for the Angels, who let a second chance to clinch the American League West title at home slip through their normally sure hands. With Mariners manager John McLaren busily taking full advantage of his many bullpen options, Seattle hung a 3-2 defeat on the Angels in Saturday's rain-delayed affair at Angel Stadium when closer J.J. Putz struck out Garret Anderson with the potential tying run at second. Their magic number still one, the Angels will try to get it done on Sunday in the regular-season home finale behind their ace, John Lackey. He'll face former teammate Jeff Weaver. Miguel Batista and six relievers combined to subdue the Angels, who got a stellar effort from Bartolo Colon, filling in for Kelvim Escobar with only his second start in seven weeks. He fell to 6-8, but Colon's performance gives manager Mike Scioscia and the staff another option to weigh in postseason plans -- when they get to them. Feeling no discomfort with his elbow, Colon felt it was his best effort since his April 21 season debut (seven innings, one run) against the Mariners. Colon went eight innings with 67 of his 90 pitches in the strike zone, yielding three runs on eight hits, walking none. "It was my fastball that I was able to command down in the zone," Colon said through broadcaster Jose Mota's interpretation. "I give credit to [pitching coach] Mike Butcher. He's been impressing that on me for a long time with my mechanics." Putz, one of the game's pre-eminent closers, took care of the final four outs. After quelling a two-on threat in the eighth by retiring Howie Kendrick on a forceout, the Angels lifted partisan hopes in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Reggie Willits beat out an infield single and took third on Orlando Cabrera's one-out single. Putz retired Mariners slayer Vladimir Guerrero on a hopper to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, with Willits scoring and Cabrera advancing to second. A protracted duel with Anderson ended when Putz unleashed a 96 mph heater up in the strike zone. Not many high fastballs get past Anderson, but, after a steady diet of splitters, this one did. After surviving two early disturbances with quality pitches to dangerous hitters, Batista's luck expired in the sixth. It started with Anderson striking out but reaching on a wild pitch that Kenji Johjima couldn't handle cleanly. Anderson raced to third when Casey Kotchman dropped a hit into shallow right. A slow roller by Maicer Izturis became an RBI single when first baseman Ben Broussard, hesitating slightly, decided not to throw home and flipped a heartbeat too late to Batista covering first. Gary Matthews Jr., in his first appearance since spraining his right ankle on Sept. 11, walked, loading the bases for Kendrick. That was the end of Batista's day. Sean Green came on and got Kendrick to tap into a force at home on a grounder to third. Lefty Eric O'Flaherty was summoned to face pinch-hitter Kendry Morales, who gave way to Juan Rivera. On a 1-2 count, Rivera fouled out to end the threat. "We just have to continue to play baseball the right way -- work hard and execute," Kendrick said. "That's what's got us here, and we're going to continue to do that." Reaching base for the fourth straight time with a two-out single leading off the seventh against O'Flaherty, Figgins forced another pitching change. Right-hander Cha Seung Baek faced Orlando Cabrera, whose first-inning single gave him a career-high 187 hits for the season, and retired him on a popup. When Guerrero also lifted a harmless infield popup, Baek's work was done. Southpaw Ryan Rowland-Smith arrived to face Anderson, but Smith's first delivery was a pickoff throw to first, where Broussard tagged out Figgins. Hoping to earn a spot on the postseason roster, Colon came out of the chute looking like the AL Cy Young Award-winning pitcher of 2005. He retired the first seven Mariners, striking out three in a row. Willie Bloomquist singled in the third, but was quickly erased on a double-play grounder by Betancourt. For the second time in three innings, the Angels let a big chance get away in the third when Anderson -- leading the Majors in RBIs since the All-Star break with 65 -- grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. In the first, Guerrero had shattered his bat bouncing into a double play after singles by Figgins and Cabrera had Batista in trouble. Kotchman didn't like a called third strike that ended the inning with runners on the corners after an Anderson walk. "The difference in the game," Scioscia said, "was hitting with runners in scoring position." The Mariners were 3-for-6 with men on second and/or third, the Angels 1-for-9. Any way you cut it, .500 beats .111 every time. Seattle scored twice in the fourth. Ichiro Suzuki, the human hitting machine, doubled to left and scored on Adrian Beltre's single. Colon was close to escaping when he got Jose Guillen to tap into a double play after Raul Ibanez's single, but Broussard stroked a two-out RBI double to right for a two-run lead. Ichiro's two-out RBI single to left delivered Jose Lopez, who'd singled and moved up on a bunt, for a 3-0 lead in the fifth. A free agent after the season, Colon figures he'll have one more start coming off his longest effort of the season. If this was his final effort for the Angels in Anaheim, the big man wanted to thank the fans for the memories. "I hope it's not," Colon said. "But if it is my last one, I'm nothing but proud of what the fans have shown me in good and bad times."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.