Maybe the Angels were due for a good game against Felix Hernandez, the Seattle Mariners ace who went 6-0 with an 0.74 earned-run average, giving up five runs in 61 innings since the beginning of 2014.
How else do you explain the Angels scoring almost as many runs — four — with two swings of the bat Tuesday night as they did in their last nine games against one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers?
David Murphy, moved from the cleanup to leadoff spot in hopes of providing “a little spark,” in the words of Manager Mike Scioscia, did just that, lining a three-run home run off the top of the right-field wall in the third inning.
And Mike Trout provided the decisive blow, towering a solo homer to left-center, his team-leading 36th of the season, in the sixth to push the Angels to a 4-3 victory in Safeco Field.
Joe Smith, filling in for closer Huston Street, who was recovering from flu-like symptoms that caused him to lose 13 pounds in three days, struck out three of four in the ninth for his third save, as the Angels moved to within 31/2 games of Houston for the second American League wild-card spot. They are four games behind new AL West leader Texas.
“We maximized six hits — it wasn’t as if we killed the ball,” Scioscia said. “But Murph got us a big hit.”
That Murphy and Trout did damage against Hernandez was not that surprising. Murphy now has a .294 average (25 for 85), four homers and 19 runs batted in against the right-hander. No player has more RBIs off Hernandez.
“I know that I have success against him, and maybe that gives me a little bit of confidence, but it’s not like I’m going to go up there and something’s going to magically happen because I have a good past against him,” Murphy said. “It’s still going to be a grind and a battle every time you face a guy that good.”
Trout is hitting .344 (22 for 64) with four homers and 13 RBIs off Hernandez.
“Felix is one of the top pitchers of his generation,” Scioscia said, “and Mike is pretty good too.”
Catcher Carlos Perez, making his eighth start in nine games — “He’s just flat-out won more playing time,” Scioscia said — had two doubles, a single and one run.
Angels right-hander Nick Tropeano allowed two runs and four hits in five innings, giving up a solo homer to Nelson Cruz (his 42nd of the season) and an RBI single to Franklin Gutierrez in the fourth.
Jose Alvarez and Trevor Gott threw scoreless innings, and Fernando Salas gave up a solo homer to Gutierrez in the seventh.
Right-hander Jered Weaver (7-10, 4.71 ERA) will oppose Seattle right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (7-4, 4.05 ERA) at Safeco Field tonight at 7. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna