SEATTLE -- Mike Trout's three-run double off Mariners closer Edwin Diaz lifted the Angels to a 6-3 win in Thursday's series opener at Safeco Field, as the screws tightened even further on the American League Wild Card race.
Trout's game winner spoiled the Mariners' own three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth when they tied the game with a solo homer by Jean Segura and a two-run shot by Nelson Cruz off reliever Bud Norris.
"They battled back, but this team picks each other up," Trout said. "That's all we can do. Once they tied it, we knew we just had to get one across the board and get a chance in the ninth. I just got a pitch to hit."
The Angels' third straight win pulls them even at 58-58, one game back of the 59-57 Mariners and Rays in a Wild Card chase that has six teams currently within 1 1/2 games of each other for the No. 2 spot. And now the Mariners might face the prospect of not having ace James Paxton for a spell, as he left the game after 6 1/3 innings with a left pectoral strain.
Diaz, who leads the Majors with 12 saves since the All-Star break, got into hot water with a trio of walks before Trout ripped an 0-1 slider into left field. The 23-year-old was pitching for the fifth time in Seattle's past six games.
"Obviously, we've leaned on Eddie Diaz really hard coming out of the break," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He's been awesome. Electric. The walks got him tonight. They were very patient. They laid off some very close pitches and Trout got up to the plate. The walks leading up to that really, really hurt. You're hoping to stay away from that situation. But Trout put a pretty good swing on a slider and that was the ballgame."
Tyler Skaggs had outdueled Paxton as he allowed five hits over 6 1/3 shutout innings to put the Angels in position for an easier win, but Norris couldn't hold the lead.
"I thought Skaggs had really good stuff," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he commanded counts better. He got a little tired as the game went on. Obviously the three walks aren't what you want to see, but when he needed to make a pitch, he did. He got us 19 outs against a team that's really swinging the bats well."
Paxton not only missed his chance to become the first Mariner pitcher ever to win eight straight starts, the 28-year-old was taken out of the game with one out in the seventh after straining the left pectoral muscle in his chest. Paxton wound up with a no-decision, leaving him 12-3 with a 2.78 ERA.
"It hurts. He's been our guy," said Servais. "Fingers crossed he won't miss too much time."
C.J. Cron ripped a 430-foot homer off Paxton leading off the second and Andrelton Simmons followed with a two-run shot in the fourth. Paxton had allowed just five home runs on the season coming in and it was the first time he's given up two homers in a game since his first start of 2016.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED He brings the bat, too: Simmons is well known for his defensive prowess, but the Angels shortstop continues swinging a hot bat as well and his two-run homer in the fourth was a crucial blow against Paxton as it gave the Halos a 3-0 lead. Simmons' 12th homer of the year was a 413-foot shot to left-center off a 94-mph fastball. The 27-year-old has hit .394 (26-for-66) over his last 18 games to hike his season average to .304.
Another Cruz missile: The big designated hitter has been carrying the Mariners of late and he did it again with his two-run blast off Norris with two out in the eighth. The home run was Cruz's seventh in the past 10 games and put him at 27 for the year, while increasing his American League-leading RBI total to 90. Statcast™ measured this one at 426 feet with a 111-mph exit velocity. In other words, just another typical Cruz blast.
"Cruz continues to tear it up," said Servais."We really weren't doing anything offensively, but to come back and get that ballgame tied up says a lot about the effort our guys are putting forth right now."
"The guys fought back and did a great job getting back to 3-3. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it done today, but we've been playing really good baseball and just need to keep on doing what we're doing here and we'll be all right." -- Paxton, who will get an MRI test on Friday on his strained pectoral muscle. .
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Right-hander Ricky Nolasco (5-12, 5.09 ERA) will take the mound for the Angels on Friday night at 7:10 p.m. PT at Safeco Field. In eight career starts against the Mariners, Nolasco is 2-4 with a 3.88 ERA.
Mariners: Lefty Marco Gonzales (0-0, 11.25 ERA) makes his second start in place of the injured Felix Hernandez in Friday's 7:10 p.m. PT game. The 25-year-old rookie, acquired on July 21 from the Cardinals, gave up five runs on seven hits with five strikeouts in four innings in his Seattle debut at Kansas City on Sunday.