The Angels were hitless in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings of Thursday night’s 9-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners in T-Mobile Park, which is no reflection on how they’ve been swinging the bats in recent days.
Their arms were probably tired, and they needed a break.
One day after amassing 12 runs and 16 hits in a win at Oakland, the Angels racked up eight runs and 12 hits in the first five innings against the hapless Mariners, who have lost 24 of 30 games since April 27 and are 11-33 since their 13-2 start. Three singles in the ninth pushed the Angels’ hit total to 15.
Mike Trout continued to emerge from a monthlong funk with two hits and three RBIs, Cesar Puello homered as part of a three-hit night, and Kole Calhoun hit a solo homer and an RBI single.
Every starter except Jonathan Lucroy got a hit. The Angels scored in each of the first five innings, the first time they’ve done that since a July 15, 2015, game at Texas.
“When you’ve got all the guys contributing, it’s big for us,” Trout said. “It’s fun to be a part of, it’s fun to get on base and drive in runs. It seemed like every time I was up there were guys on base.”
Felix Pena followed “opener” Luis Garcia with 51/3 strong innings in which he struck out eight, walked three and threw a career-high 102 pitches to improve to 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA. Jake Jewell covered the final 22/3 innings.
After a six-game stretch in which they played three one-run games, two two-run games and Wednesday’s 11-inning marathon, the Angels enjoyed a stress-free evening in which they could rest all of their heavily worked front-line relievers.
“We had been joking that it seems like every day we play a different version of the same game,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “Today was not one of those games. It came at exactly the right time because we had a lot of people who could rest in the bullpen.”
Pena entered in the second inning and initially struggled with his command. Of his first 16 pitches, 11 were balls, the right-hander missing the strike zone on six straight pitches at one point.
With two on, one out and a full count on Jay Bruce, Ausmus came to the mound for a lengthy chat with Pena. The timing of the mound visit — in the middle of an at-bat — and the initiator of the meeting — the manager, not the pitching coach — seemed odd.
“It had nothing to do with how he was throwing,” Ausmus said. “We’re very wary nowadays of other teams relaying signs, so I just wanted to make sure they changed the signs.”
The meeting seemed to have another effect on Pena, who struck out Bruce looking at a knee-high fastball and whiffed Tim Beckham with a nasty slider, starting a string in which he retired nine straight batters before walking Bruce and giving up a two-run homer to Beckham in the fifth.
“I don’t know if there was any correlation,” Ausmus said, before joking, “I told him to strike out the next few guys. … He did an outstanding job. He used his changeup very well tonight, which he hadn’t used much his last few games. With all the lefties they had, that became an important pitch.”
As bad as the Angels’ starting pitching has been — their rotation entered Thursday with a 5.61 ERA, the third-worst in baseball — the Mariners have been far worse over the past month. With Thursday night’s 31/3-inning, 10-hit, six-run effort by left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle starters have combined to go 5-19 with a 6.66 ERA since April 27, the third-highest ERA in the major leagues over that span.
Kikuchi walked two and gave up an RBI single to Albert Pujols in the first. Calhoun ripped a 417-foot homer to right-center field — his 11th of the season — to lead off the second, and Trout flared an RBI single to right for a 3-0 lead.
Puello, who went three for six and hit his first career homer in his Angels debut on Wednesday, drove a two-out solo homer to right in the third to make it 4-0.