Angels face Mariners with five-game winning streak

SEATTLE -- Andrelton Simmons chuckled when asked if the Los Angeles Angels had begun scoreboard watching now that they're in the thick of the American League's playoff race.

"We can't root for everybody, it's too early," said the shortstop, whose Angels have won the first three games of their series in Seattle to take over sole possession of the second and final AL wild-card spot. "It's not just this team we've got to beat to make the postseason. We've got to continue to play good baseball regardless of whom we're playing against, really. But it's even bigger when it's somebody that's fighting for the same thing."

The Angels (60-58) have won five games in a row, including a 6-3 victory Saturday, to move a half-game ahead of the Minnesota Twins (58-57). The Mariners (59-59), Tampa Bay (59-59) and Kansas City (58-58) are all one game behind.

The key, at least in this series, has been the bullpens.

"We just know at some point we're going to get the ball every night," said Angels reliever Keynan Middleton (4-0), who has earned the victory in each of the past two games. "We're going to do our jobs because we're in this and going to make this wild-card thing exciting."

The Angels' bullpen is 3-0 and has allowed three runs in 10 1/3 innings in the series. Mariners relievers are 0-3 and have allowed 13 runs (12 earned) in 10 2/3 innings.

"Our bullpen ... these guys keep taking the ball and making pitches," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're not going to get there (the postseason) unless the bullpen is pitching as it has. They've been very effective."

Friday night, the Angels came back from a four-run deficit, tying the score in the seventh inning and scoring the winning run on an unearned run in the ninth of a 6-5 decision.

They rallied for their 35th come-from-behind victory of the season Saturday, tying the score in the seventh and getting a two-run double from designated hitter Albert Pujols in the eighth to break the deadlock.

"It's not the first time (for a comeback)," Pujols said. "We have great chemistry. You've always got 27 outs. As long as we have one left, we're going for it."

Added Simmons: "That's what we do, especially late in the game. We never give in. We make the pitchers earn their outs and we put up good at-bats. ... The game is really never over for us. We've done it enough times that we know it."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia commended the veteran leadership on his club.

"Each game has its own life. You can't do anything about yesterday. All you can do is pour your heart into today," Scioscia said. "We've got through a lot of adversity and are in a real pennant race.

"We're still in long-season mode right now. You could put utmost importance on every game but we need to play free and play loose. We'll see in the next month which teams we need to jump over. Every game is important, but you can't put abnormal pressure on yourself."

The Angels, who started a nine-game trip in Seattle, and Mariners were tied going into the ninth inning both Thursday and Friday and tied entering the eighth Saturday.

"It's a great start to the road trip," Pujols said. "This is what you want because you know you're making up a game (when you win)."

The Angels will try to keep it going Sunday when they send right-hander Parker Bridwell (6-1, 3.00 ERA) to the mound against Mariners left-hander Ariel Miranda (7-5, 4.65).

The Angels are 10-1 when Bridwell pitches, with the lone loss June 30 in his only previous appearance against Seattle, in which he also faced Miranda. Bridwell allowed a career-high five earned runs on 11 hits in six innings of a 10-0 loss in Anaheim.

Miranda is 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA in five career starts against the Angels, including 2-0 this season. He also beat them 11-3 on May 4.

"We've got to get back on the right track," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "We've had these ups and downs. The guys are battling their butts off and we've got Miranda on the mound (Sunday)."
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