The Seattle Mariners got the best of Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney on Monday, securing their spot for now atop the American League West. If the Angels are to remain in contention, they need to at least avoid a sweep.
Monday’s matchup came across as more of a home run derby than a normal game. Mike Trout nearly gave a one-man show from the Angels’ side, blasting two long balls at over 110 miles per hour off the bat. Albert Pujols joined him in the top of the first to start what no doubt gave many Halos fans a premature expectation for an easy upset. The Mariners quickly answered, though, and in less than four innings, they hit Heaney a total of more than 1,200 feet, including three home runs.
Heaney’s performance marked a major disappointment following his recent one-hit shutout against the Kansas City Royals. But credit for the Mariners’ victory also belongs to Seattle manager Scott Servais, who had Wade LeBlanc walk Trout to load the bases, then left LeBlanc in to face Justin Upton. A base hit would have at least meant extra innings. Upton, however, was 3 for 13 against LeBlanc, and LeBlanc struck him out on a 3-2 count with his cutter.
The series opener presented an opportunity for the Angels—then on a nine-game winning streak—to break the momentum that Seattle had built after the Mariners went 7-2 in June. Along with the Houston Astros, both teams stood poised to win the division. The Angels’ recent loss of Shohei Ohtani, however, made their 4 1/2 game trailing to the Mariners seem much greater. A win on Monday would have given them a clear morale boost.
The next two games could send the Mariners and Astros off to the races if the Angels cannot find a way to cool their rivals to the north.
Today, the Angels’ rookie Jaime Barria (2.48 ERA) will likely fill Ohtani’s shoes, and Angels bats will face Mike Leake (4.46 ERA).
Game one did not show clear dominance on the part of the Mariners, and if Barria performs better than Heaney the Angels have a solid shot of taking this one because of how well they have hit Leake in the past. A key concern, though, is the steady improvement of the Mariners as a team—including Leake—who despite his overall high ERA, has kept it under 2.0 in the past four games.
The Angels desperately need to win the series against the Mariners, but if they lose another one, it does not need to be the one tonight. Much will depend on Barria’s ability to get the job done at the mound to reassure fans and his teammates that the team will continue to soar without Ohtani.
A series win for the Angels would put the AL West back on the path to a three-way toss-up. Most importantly, it would give the Halos a much needed morale boost coming off the loss of one of their best players.