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Mariners deny Angels behind Batista

Mariners deny Angels behind Batista

ANAHEIM -- There really isn't much the Mariners can do to prevent the Angels from winning the American League West championship for the third time in the past four years.

But what has happened so far in this four-game series has re-established some self-esteem in the Mariners and possibly planted a seed that could sprout next season.

Seattle staved off mathematical elimination from the division title for the second time in less than 48 hours on Saturday afternoon with a tense 3-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 43,583 at Angel Stadium.

"We came in here fighting for respect," manager John McLaren said. "We feel like we can play with the Angels, but we've have had some tough games. They came into our ballpark and it wasn't a good feeling. It left a bad taste in our mouth."

The Angels swept the three-game series in late August, taking control of the AL West race, and have inched closer to the title clincher ever since.

"Them beating us like that put us in a funk," Willie Bloomquist said. "I'm not saying it was just them that did it, but it kind of started our tailspin of sorts. So for us to return the favor, they are going to have to go into an awfully big tailspin for us to have a chance.

"We are kind of playing for pride, not wanting them to celebrate against us. They are one of the best teams in baseball, and any time you can come into their place and have a chance to win a series against them is good. They want to clinch, and also are playing for home-field advantage. In that respect, we can play spoiler a little bit.

"But we're just trying to win, play for pride and end the season strong going into next season."

After losing the series opener to the Angels on Thursday night, putting them within one loss of being mathematically eliminated from the AL West division race, the Mariners stalled a champagne celebration on Friday night with a win, and did it again on Saturday with an even bigger win.

"They are the best team in our division, and we have to prove to ourselves that we can beat them," McLaren added. "We have to beat the Angels to get where we want to go."

In Saturday's rain-delayed game, right-hander Miguel Batista notched his career-best 15th win, Ichiro Suzuki tacked on two more hits, first baseman Ben Broussard drove in his first run since replacing injured Richie Sexson and McLaren paraded most of his relief corps to the mound in the last four innings -- including closer J.J. Putz, who surrendered a run in the ninth inning, but notched his 39th save by striking out Garret Anderson with the potential tying run on second base.

"That was a great win to be a part of," Putz said. "From about the sixth inning on, every pitch was huge."

While the champagne near the other clubhouse was kept on ice for at least one more night, the Mariners' AL Wild Card hopes took another little bath when the Yankees pulled out an extra-inning victory over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

That leaves Seattle six games behind the Yankees with eight games remaining.

"Mathematically, we're not out of anything," Putz said. "Stranger things probably have happened."

He couldn't immediately think of one, however.

And so, until the Mariners are actually involved in a game with a championship on the line, the game they played on an unusually wet Southern California afternoon is about as good as it gets.

A heavy downpour kept the third game of the series from starting on time, and neither team could generate much offense through the early innings.

The first rain delay in almost eight years in Anaheim was 49 minutes. The run delay lasted three innings.

Seattle broke through against Angels right-hander Bartolo Colon in the fourth inning when Ichiro led off with a double just inside the third-base line and scored when designated hitter-for-the-day Adrian Beltre singled to right field.

After a single by Raul Ibanez put runners on first and second base with nobody out, former Angels outfielder Jose Guillen grounded into a double play. Then Broussard drilled an RBI double into the right-field corner.

Batista took the game into the sixth inning, departing when the leg that had been hit by a line drive the previous inning began to tighten up.

His departure started a game of mix-and-match, as McLaren called in his relievers one after another. Among the highlights was lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith getting an out in the seventh inning without throwing a pitch.

He replaced right-hander Cha Seung Baek, who had retired Cabrera and Guerrero, and promptly picked Chone Figgins off first base for the final out of the inning.

"That was a pretty good game, with high intensity on both sides," McLaren said.

That intensity was at fever-pitch level with one out remaining in the game and the Angels threatening to at least send it into extra innings.

Putz became the seventh pitcher used when he entered the game with two outs and two on in the eighth inning. He nailed the last out on a fielder's choice at second base.

He returned to work in the ninth with a two-run lead. He surrendered a pinch-hit single to Reggie Willits, struck out Figgins and gave up a single to Orlando Cabrera to bring up Mariners killer Guerrero, who plated a run on a groundout to shortstop. Putz then struck out Garret Anderson to end the game.

"A lot of good things happened today," Putz said.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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