Seager, Saunders Help M’s Power Past Angels
SEATTLE (AP) — Dan Haren now must wait and see if he’ll continue to enjoy the stability he seeks by staying with the Los Angeles Angels or if he’ll be looking for another new team.
Haren struggled in his final start of the 2012 season Tuesday night, giving up a first-inning homer to Seattle’s Kyle Seager in the Angels’ 6-1 loss to the Mariners. It capped a season where Haren stumbled through the first half of the season, only to get better down the stretch as the Angels made a late charge for the postseason.
That playoff surge ended on Monday night when the Angels were eliminated from the AL wild card race. That left Tuesday open to speculation about what the Angels may do in the offseason after finishing a surprising third in the ultra-competitive AL West.
And one of their first decisions will be whether to pick up the option on Haren’s contract.
“It’s going to be interesting. I’ve never obviously been in a situation like this,” Haren said. “Whether I’m a free agent or not, I don’t know. If I am, it’s going to be tough. I’m sick of changing teams. I’ve been on four teams and coming to L.A. was a dream come true.”
The penultimate game of the season came a night after the Angels were eliminated from the postseason. And they played like a team with nothing tangible left to play for, tying their season high with three errors, including a pair in the sixth inning by right fielder Mark Trumbo that helped two runs score.
Mike Trout had one hit in five at-bats to see his average drop to .324. He’s seven points behind leader Miguel Cabrera.
Haren (12-13) got little help from his defense with the three errors. He struck out eight and allowed only three earned runs, but also gave up seven hits and dropped his final two decisions of the season.
“I struggled early in the year. I had some back issues and was trying to be my old self,” Haren said. “The last couple of months I went with a less is more attitude and focused more on location and got way better results.”
Seager provided Seattle some early offense, becoming just the fifth player in Mariners history to record a 20-homer season in one of his first two years in the majors. He added a double in the sixth, when the Mariners took a 5-0 lead.
Seager is the first Seattle hitter to reach the 20 homer mark since Russell Branyan (31) and Jose Lopez (25) did it in 2009.
“It’s a nice personal accomplishment. It was a good offseason for me. I worked out really hard, trying to get myself to where you can hit the ball a little harder and the coaches have helped me out a lot here,” Seager said. “… I don’t really consider myself a home run hitter.”
With the Angels out of the playoff chase, much of the attention turned to the Mariners announcement Tuesday that the fences would be moved in at Safeco Field for the 2013 season, most notably in left-center field where fly balls notoriously die. Almost on cue, both teams peppered the outfield with fly balls that left question about whether that would be a home run in future seasons.
There was no question about Michael Saunders’ two-run double in the fourth inning off Haren that thudded off the wall on the fly in deep left-center to score John Jaso and Justin Smoak. Seattle’s Casper Wells, twice, and the Angels’ Hank Conger both hit fly balls that very likely could be homers in future seasons but ended up being flyouts.
Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5) made his bid for a spot in Seattle’s 2013 plans by winning his third straight start to close the year. He allowed six hits and struck out seven, including Angels’ slugger Albert Pujols three times, while pitching six scoreless innings. It was just the 12th time in Pujols career that he struck out three times in a game.
The only two pitchers to strike out Pujols three times in a single game are Iwakuma and Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, who did in less than a week ago in Anaheim.
The Angels left runners at second and third in the first inning, then saw Trout standing at third with no outs in the third and failed to get him home. Iwakuma struck out Howie Kendrick, Pujols and got a ground out from Kendrys Morales to escape the jam. The Angels finished 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base.
“We just couldn’t get that hit early that would’ve helped Dan relax and make some pitches,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “On the defensive side, we cracked the door open for them too often. It was a tough night.”
Notes: Kendrick had an RBI single in the ninth to score Andrew Romine and avoid the shutout. … The last time Pujols had two, three-strikeout games in a season was 2008. … Seattle CF Franklin Gutierrez did not play Tuesday and won’t in the season finale Wednesday bothered by a sore groin. … Iwakuma finished 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA after moving into the starting rotation in July.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.