The Mariners haven’t had a more joyous day all season than what they experienced Sunday in front of 20,638 at Safeco Field: They defeated the L.A. Angels 2-1, won their second in a row for the first time in nearly a month, moved past the Angels and into third place in the AL West, and received two big home runs when they needed them.
Jason Bay had the first in the seventh inning when he parked a fastball from former Mariner Jason Vargas in to the seats in left to tie at 1, and Michael Morse delivered what proved to be the game winner when he sent a 394-foot line drive to left in the eighth.
The Mariners (11-16) finally have won two in a row for the first time since April 1-2, when they opened the season with a pair of victories over Oakland, and took their first series of the season (3-1). The Mariners are now percentage points — .407 to .375 — ahead of the Angels (9-15) in the division race.
Two negatives marred the win. Hisashi Iwakuma failed to collect the victory even though he pitched well enough to deserve one, and Kyle Seager went 0-for-4, snapping his hitting streak at 16 games, longest in the majors so far this season. Dustin Ackley (1-for-3), though, extended his streak to nine games, second-longest of his career.
Vargas, who entered the game with an 0-2 record and 5.85 ERA, matched Iwakuma most of the way. A 14-game winner for Seattle last season, he allowed two runs on six hits in eight innings, but the long balls by Bay and Morse spoiled his return.
He had one consolation in falling to 0-3. The man for whom he was traded, Kendrys Morales, went 0-for-4 against him.
In the sixth, Angels shortstop Andrew Romine singled to right off Iwakuma, advanced to second on a sacrifice and scored on a fielding error by Seattle shortstop Robert Andino, who watched a ball “Bill Buckner” right through his wickets. The Angels’ 1-0 lead lasted until the seventh when Bay, who had been 1-for-5 all-time against Vargas, whacked a solo home run, who had given up just three long balls all season.
Bay’s home run took Iwakuma off the hook for the loss. Iwakuma left having worked six innings. He allowed three hits, one run, fanned eight, didn’t issue a walk and threw 66 of his 92 pitches for strikes.
An inning later, Vargas still working, Morse ripped a cut fastball into the left-field seats when Vargas left the ball out over the plate. Vargas yelped audibly on the mound in disgust after giving up the home run, Morse’s seventh of the season (also his 11th RBI) and his first since April 9 against Houston.
The Angels put two aboard in the seventh with two outs, but Carter Capps, who replaced Iwakuma, induced Mike Trout to fly out to Morse in right.
Closer Tom Wilhelmsen faced the heart of the Angels order in the ninth and got Albert Pujols to fly out to Endy Chavez in center, fanned Josh Hamilton with a high fastball, and made Mark Trumbo ground out to Dustin Ackley at second. Wilhelmsen has eight saves in eight opportunities.
The Mariners play three with Baltimore starting Monday. LHP Joe Saudners, 1-3, 6.33 this season but 7-0, 1.71 in his career at Safeco Field, will oppose Zach Britton, just recalled from the AAA Norfolk Tides. If last year is any indication, it won’t be an easy series for Seattle. The Orioles beat the Mariners eight times in nine games last year and just completed a series win at Oakland.
NOTES: Michael Saunders, who went 2-for-5 with a double and triple in a rehab start with AAA Tacoma Saturday, is expected to rejoin the Mariners Monday. Saunders also played center field for the Rainiers Sunday in Las Vegas . . . The Mariners said Sunday that top prospect Danny Hultzen will miss at least a month with a rotator cuff strain . . . With Saturday’s win over the Angels, Felix Hernandez has 65 career starts in which he has allowed two or fewer runs with at least 8.0 innings pitched.