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September 16, 2014 at 11:31 PM

Mariners 13, Angels 2 — Yes, the ‘offensive juggernaut’ emerges from hibernation

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ANAHEIM, Calif. – Just a few hours after he admitted that his team wasn’t an “offensive juggernaut” – a premise few would argue with him about – Mariners’ manager Lloyd McClendon watched his team look like one on Tuesday night.

The Mariners scored a combined 10 runs in the fifth and sixth inning and rolled to an easy 13-2 win over the Angels.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak and quelled any growing sentiment that the team, while still mathematically alive, was all but done in their chase for the postseason.

“The one thing I impressed on my club is that we are not going to let three days define what our season would be all about,” McClendon said. “I think this club has been remarkable all year. They’ve been very resilient. We had three tough losses in a row and then we turned the page. It was nice to see them break out tonight.”

The win improved the Mariners to 81-69 on the season.  With the Royals’ bullpen imploding in a 7-5 loss to the White Sox earlier in the evening, the Mariners are now one game back in the standings for the second wild card. And remember, the Royals (82-68) still have to finish the suspended game with the Indians where they are trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning. They also get to face lefthander and Cy Young candidate Chris Sale on Wednesday.

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WILD CARD STANDINGS

It means that any obituaries on the Mariners’ 2014 season might be just a little premature.

And if they can continue to get even a portion of the runs, hits and quality at-bats they put together on Tuesday night, their demise won’t be imminent.

But the game wasn’t all gumdrops and rainbows.

After being held scoreless for the first four innings while getting a shaky and truncated start from Roenis Elias, it sure seemed like they were destined for another loss and moving one step closer to being knocked out of contention.

The Angels had a scheduled bullpen start with reliever Cory Rasmus getting the call. It’s something they’ve done in the interim with the season-ending injury to Garrett Richards. The strategy was working pretty well. Rasmus threw four shutout innings, allowing a soft single to Kyle Seager and striking four batters.

Meanwhile, his Angels’ teammates took advantage of a rough first inning from Roenis Elias, scoring a pair of runs on a RBI singles from Albert Pujols and David Freese.

Elias never looked crisp on the mound, and there may have been a reason why. In the fourth inning, he pulled up on a pitch to Erick Aybar, clearly feeling some discomfort. Manager Lloyd McClendon came to the mound along with trainer Rob Nodine. After a brief conversation, Elias was removed from the game. The Mariners announced that it was a precautionary move because of elbow tightness. Elias is scheduled to be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

“I’m not sure of the terminology, but there’s a slight strain in some muscle,” McClendon said. “They don’t seem to be too concerned about it, but they are obviously going to do an MRI for precautionary measures and hopefully he should be ok.”

But not OK enough to make his next start on Sunday in Houston.

“I would say it’s highly unlikely he will make his next start,” McClendon said.

Elias was upbeat and seemed unconcerned about the issue. He felt the discomfort after throwing a changeup in the fourth inning and talked to Felix Hernandez about it on the bench.

“It felt a little tight,” he said  through an interpreter. “I’ve never felt anything like that. But I’m not scared. I’m going to keep working. I will be ready.”

Down 2-0 and their starting pitcher out with injury, the Mariners’ victory hopes were wilting in the 100-degree heat.

But as part of the bullpen start strategy, manager Mike Scioscia removed Rasmus after 43 pitches and called on setup man Jason Grilli.

The Mariners jumped all over the veteran right-hander. Kendrys Morales drew a leadoff walk and Logan Morrison was hit by a pitch to start the trouble for Grilli. Endy Chavez bunted the runners into scoring position, setting up Mike Zunino.

The talented young catcher, whose batting average has dipped below  .200 on the season, crushed a first-pitch fastball into center field, catching Mike Trout off guard. The all-star outfielder was burned and took an awkward route to the ball as it sailed over his head. Zunino was standing on second with a two-run double.

“I thought he was tracking it all the way,” Zunino said. “I knew I squared it up. He came up the next inning and said it was knuckling like crazy. I squared it up and must have hit it right on the lace or something.”

Just a day earlier McClendon said his team was just a big hit away from the offense really erupting. He finally got it. It was the Mariners’ first hit with a runner in scoring position in 18 at-bats and it seemed to awaken their bats.

“Sometimes it’s the simplest of things – a walk from Morales and a hit by pitch from Morrison and Z comes up with the big double,” McClendon said. “That was huge for us.”

Chris Taylor followed with a RBI double into left field to score Zunino to make it 3-2 lead. Dustin Ackley made it 4-2 with a two-out RBI double.

Of course, 4-2 isn’t exactly  a comfortable lead against an offense as good as the Angels. But a 10-2 lead? Well, that’s like a relaxing massage.

The Mariners hung six runs on the Angels in the sixth inning. The slumping Kendrys Morales led off with a single to start the barrage. He also got the last hit of the inning with a double to right field. In between his hits, the Mariners got RBI singles from Endy Chavez and Austin Jackson, a sac fly from Ackley, a RBI infield single from Cano and another run on the play thanks a throwing error from catcher Chris Iannetta and a RBI single from Kyle Seager.

Up 10-2, the Mariners went inning by inning with the bullpen. Carson Smith, who replaced Elias in the fourth inning, worked a dominant 1-2-3 fifth inning to notch his first career win. Brandon Maurer, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel and Lucas Luetge all worked scoreless innings to close it out.

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