ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If the Los Angeles Angels had played as well against the rest of the American League as they have against the Seattle Mariners -- and avoided a couple of devastating injuries -- perhaps they'd be in the hunt for a fourth straight division title.
Dan Haren held Seattle to three singles over seven innings, Mike Napoli homered and the Angels scored another run on a catcher's interference call with the bases loaded in a 3-0 victory over the Mariners on Sunday.
More on the Angels
For more news, notes and analysis of the Angels, check out ESPN Los Angeles' blog. »
The Angels, who are in third place in the AL West after winning three straight division titles, completed a three-game sweep and won the season series 14-5. It's the fifth straight year in which they reached double digits in victories against the Mariners, the longest such streak in the franchise's 50-year history."We need to obviously put wins on the board and put ourselves in a position where we have an opportunity to gain ground when we play some of the teams ahead of us and make a difference," said manager Mike Scioscia, whose team trails Texas by 10 games with 19 to play. "We're putting together a little streak now, and obviously it has to continue."Haren (3-4) struck out six, walked three and did not allow a hit after Russell Branyan's leadoff single in the fourth. Seattle had only three baserunners after that against the left-hander, two on walks and another on a throwing error by Napoli when he fielded Franklin Gutierrez's grounder to first base and tried to get a force at second on Branyan."I'm definitely happy with the way I've been throwing the ball overall the last few weeks, and I'm happy that we finally won a game that I pitched -- because we've only won a few," said Haren, who has a 3.04 ERA in 10 starts since the Angels obtained him in a July 25 trade that sent Joe Saunders to the Arizona Diamondbacks.Haren escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth when he got Bard to fly out to center field. Bard's only other at-bat with the bases loaded this season was at Cleveland on Aug. 14, when he hit his first career grand slam."It was a split that was down. He got good wood on it, actually, but it was in a good location. So there wasn't much he could do with it," Haren said. "That was really the turning point of the game." Rookie Jordan Walden pitched the eighth inning and Fernando Rodney got three outs for his 10th save in 15 chances.Jason Vargas (9-10) lost his fifth straight start, allowing two runs -- one earned -- and seven hits over seven innings with four strikeouts. The left-hander was 1-2 with a 2.06 ERA in his five starts against the Angels this season.This was the 18th time in Vargas' 28 starts this season that the Mariners scored fewer than three runs while he was in the game."It's been pretty frustrating, the way we've played when he's been out there," batterymate Josh Bard said. "It's been kind of the same old story all year. He's been throwing great every time he's taken the ball. Today it was his command and change of speeds. He's a guy we want to get out there as much as we can."The Angels got an unearned run in the first when Bard was called for catcher's interference with the bases loaded and Hideki Matsui at the plate. Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick opened the inning with bunt singles to the left of the mound on Vargas' second and third pitches of the game.It was the second time this season that Matsui got an RBI after his bat made contact with a catcher's glove with the bases loaded. It also occurred against Seattle's backstop Eliezer Alfonzo on May 30 at Angel Stadium."He was fooled by the pitch and he hit my glove, but I've got to find a way to stay back. So I'll take responsibility," Bard said.Juan Rivera drove in the Angels' second run with a bloop single in the sixth after a double by Napoli, who hit his 24th homer in the eighth against Ryan Rowland-Smith.The home runs hasn't translated into a great deal of RBIs, however -- just 65. Napoli has only 19 hits in 99 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and just 3-for-13 with the bases loaded."Mike is really driving the ball well, but his situational hitting is something that has probably hampered his production," Scioscia said.
Any combination of five Los Angeles wins and/or Seattle losses would mathematically clinch the Mariners' second straight last-place finish and sixth in eight seasons. ... The Mariners return to Safeco Field Monday night against Boston trying to snap a streak of 15 straight home games with three runs or less. It's the longest such streak since a 15-game stretch by the 1954 Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium. ... The Angels have to go no worse than 6-13 the rest of the way to avoid tying the team's worst record in Scioscia's 10 previous seasons as manager. The 2001 squad finished 75-87 and a franchise-worst 41 games out of first place -- just one year before winning their only World Series title as a wild card.