ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - With roughly three weeks left in the playoff race, Torii Hunter realizes every loss stings the Los Angeles Angels. This defeat only hurt a bit less because of the brilliance of the pitcher who delivered it.
Felix Hernandez pitched eight innings of four-hit ball to win at Angel Stadium for the first time since 2006, and the Seattle Mariners snapped a five-game skid with a 2-1 victory over the Angels on Tuesday night.
Alberto Callaspo drove in an unearned run for the Angels, who committed four errors and dropped 3 1/2 games behind Texas in the AL West standings. The loss was just the Angels' second at home since Aug. 17.
The Rangers pounded Tampa Bay 8-0 earlier Tuesday. Los Angeles was a season-high 13 games over .500 after Monday's win over the Mariners, but still faces an uphill climb in the regular season's final three weeks to make the playoffs for the seventh time in 10 seasons.
``Texas is playing good ball, and we're just trying to keep up with those guys, so 3 1/2 games behind is still pretty good right now,' Hunter said. ``Today we faced Felix Hernandez, and they had (Tampa Bay starter Jeff) Niemann over there, so there's a difference.'
Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager scored unearned runs for the Mariners, who had lost 18 of their last 21 games in Anaheim before Hernandez (14-11) outdueled Ervin Santana and silenced the Angels' improved lineup for his sixth victory in eight starts.
``You're going to have nights like that,' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``When you're facing a tough pitcher, you can't crack the door open for him. They scratched together a couple of runs and made them hold up.'
Santana (11-10) yielded seven hits and two walks over six muddled innings in his 200th career start for the Angels, losing for just the second time in 13 starts. Although he didn't give up an earned run, he allowed a baserunner in every inning, and his usually sure-handed teammates weren't much help.
``He's got great stuff and has great stats, so I knew it was going to be a close game,' Santana said. ``It was just one of those games that got away. We made a lot of mistakes, and they didn't. It's a little frustrating, because we're trying to win games, and that's not how you want to lose a game, especially when we're 2 1/2 games back.'
Seattle loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning after two Los Angeles errors, but managed just one run on Trayvon Robinson's sacrifice fly. Seager then reached on an error in the fourth inning and eventually scored on Michael Saunders' grounder.
``We didn't do much on the offensive side to absorb any miscues, but I like our club defensively,' Scioscia said. ``I like the way they play aggressively. We made a couple of miscues tonight, but all in all, it's been a huge strength of ours this year, and it'll be there for us in the next three weeks. We're in this thing, and this game certainly didn't eliminate us. But any time you're losing ground, obviously the challenge gets a little steeper.'
Los Angeles scored in the sixth when Hunter reached on a bunt single and advanced on Hernandez's throwing error before scoring on Callaspo's single off the second-base bag.
Hernandez struck out seven while giving up two walks and an unearned run on a sultry night in Orange County. When manager Eric Wedge asked him about finishing the game, even Hernandez didn't think it was a good idea.
``I can't lie, I was a little tired at the end, but it was hot,' said Hernandez, who has pitched more than 200 innings for the fourth straight season. ``I had to be honest. We had to win this game. It was important to us because we had that five-game losing streak.'
After Hernandez retired the final seven batters he faced, Brandon League pitched the ninth for his 33rd save in 38 chances.
Hernandez improbably hadn't won in Anaheim since June 11, 2006 - also his first career complete game. He has just six victories in 25 career starts against the Mariners' division rivals, but after failing to beat the Angels at all since Sept. 29, 2009, Hernandez has two wins over Los Angeles in seven days.
On Aug. 31 in Seattle, Hernandez finally beat the Angels for the first time in nine tries, pitching a five-hitter.
``He pitches at a level that very few do, but even at his level, he's been a little bit better lately,' said Wedge, whose club stranded 14 runners. ``We just didn't get the two-out knocks today, but I was really impressed with our defense. ... It was a great challenge on both sides, but Felix is just a special pitcher with special stuff, and he was on tonight.'
NOTES: Angels SS Erick Aybar's career-best 15-game hitting streak ended. ... Los Angeles failed to homer for just the fourth time in its last 28 games. ... Hernandez made his 202nd career start, tying Kelvim Escobar for fifth-most in major league history by a Venezuelan pitcher. Freddy Garcia holds the record with 324 starts.
The Associated Press News Service
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