As they return to the comforts of Safeco Field on Friday night, the Mariners turn to ace Felix Hernandez to give the Angels a proper welcome.
Hernandez (12-6), whose 2.47 ERA is third lowest in the American League, welcomes a return home after the Rangers roughed him up for five hits, five runs and five walks in five innings of an ugly 15-3 loss Saturday. It was his lone start on a nine-game road trip the Mariners polished off with a 5-3 victory Wednesday against the A's to close the trip 5-4.
The Mariners face a double-digit deficit at third place in the American League West, just ahead of the sinking Angels, who have dropped nine of their last 11. With the club in such a position, infielder Brad Miller sees the remainder of the season as a test to see how Seattle compares to the contenders.
"We're playing a lot of playoff teams down the stretch -- a lot of teams that are first or second in their division -- and I think it's big for us because we get to see how we stack up right next to them," Miller said. "Our goal is the same. We're trying to win games and win series."
It's the start of an extended stay away from Los Angeles for the Angels, who play 23 of their 36 final games on the road after the Indians swept them at home with a 3-1 victory Wednesday night. Though the Angels' offense is crippled by the loss of Albert Pujols, who will miss the rest of the season due to a left foot injury, outfielder Josh Hamilton has shown long-awaited signs of offensive improvement.
And Hamilton has been especially hot on the road, where he owns a nine-game hitting streak away from Angels Stadium and is batting .321 with three doubles, three homers and nine RBIs since Aug. 9.
As their offense finally begins to click, the bullpen has spelled disaster for the Angels of late, giving up a ninth-inning run to the Indians Wednesday after folding Tuesday by allowing three runs in the 14th inning of another eventual loss.
"This has been a tough stretch," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I don't think there's anything quite as deflating to a team as when you're having a tough time holding leads and on a consistent basis you're giving up leads late in the game. That certainly makes that page heavier to turn."
Right-hander Garrett Richards (3-5, 4.24 ERA) will make his sixth start since rejoining the starting five. Richards has improved from his early season form since returning to the rotation July 27, going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. He surrendered five runs and 12 hits, but whiffed seven his last time out against the Astros on Saturday.
Mariners: Franklin among top AL rookies
Sixty-eight games into his big league career, infielder Nick Franklin has already joined elite company.
Franklin's homer in Tuesday's win was his 11th in his first 68 games, tying Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. for third most in franchise history. Though he didn't join the Mariners until May 27, he leads AL rookies in homers and his 38 RBIs are among the leaders.
Franklin lacerated his left knee sliding home Tuesday night, but could be back in the lineup Friday after Thursday's off-day, according to acting manager Robby Thompson.
Angels: Trumbo on a tear
Angels slugger Mark Trumbo has been one of the Majors' most productive players in August.
Though Trumbo finished 3-for-4 in Wednesday's loss, Trumbo has homered in three of his last five games and has driven in 20 runs in August, third most in the Majors behind the Yankees' Alfonso Soriano (22) and the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera (21). He's hitting .324 with four homers and a triple in his last eight games, on pace to surpass his career highs for homers and RBIs set last year.
Trumbo's next homer will be No. 30 and would make him the first Angel with back-to-back 30-home run seasons since Vladimir Guerrero did it from 2004-06.
• Hernandez gave up a season-high 12 hits and six earned runs over five innings in a 10-9 road loss to the Angels on June 20. He's 8-12 with a 3.97 ERA in 33 career starts against the Halos.
• Mike Trout, who sat out Wednesday's game, has reached base safely in 40 straight games, the longest active streak in the Majors and second longest in Angels history.
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.