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Since getting knocked around by the Rays five weeks ago, Zack Greinke had pitched brilliantly, with a 1.60 ERA in his last six starts. Tuesday night against the Mariners, though, Greinke outdid himself, as the Angels right-hander racked up 13 strikeouts in only five innings and eventually earned the 5-4 victory in a game the Angels needed to win.
Greinke needed some help, though. While tying the American League record for most strikeouts in the first five innings of a game, Greinke threw 110 pitches -- he gave up seven hits, including a fourth-inning home run by Justin Smoak -- and had to escape a couple of jams.
In the first inning, Greinke worked around a pair of singles. In the fourth, Smoak's one-out homer was followed by a strikeout, a double, and another strikeout -- except strike three eluded the catcher, allowing the batter to reach first safely. But Greinke escaped that jam by striking out Brendan Ryan for his fourth K in the inning. And in the fifth, the M's loaded the bases on a double and a couple of walks, but Greinke got out of that jam by striking out Eric Thames.
All the while, he had a small lead to work with. In the bottom of the first, the Angels scored a couple of unearned runs when Mike Trout led off and reached on third baseman Kyle Seager's error, Torii Hunter singled, Albert Pujols knocked home Trout with a single and, two batters later, Hunter came home on Alberto Callaspo's sacrifice fly.
The Angels scored twice more in the fifth, when Trout singled and Hunter drove a homer over the left-field fence.
In the sixth, Garrett Richards took over from Greinke and didn't miss a beat, striking out all three Mariners he faced. But the seventh didn't go nearly as well for the Angels. With Scott Downs on the mound, the M's tallied three runs, the last two coming on Smoak's second homer of the game; he's been hot all month, but had hit only two home runs in 17 September games.
In the eighth, Miguel Olivo led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, but Kevin Jepsen struck out pinch-hitter Mike Carp and Dustin Ackley to end the frame. That made 18 K's for the M's, just two shy of the all-time record for any team in a nine-inning game.
Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, who'd lost a couple of games last week, came on in the ninth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning -- including two strikeouts, "allowing" the M's to tie the all-time strikeout record -- to preserve the 5-4 victory and earn his 21st save. With the A's winning in Texas, the Angels remained 2 games out in the Wild Card standings. Wednesday night, the Angels and Mariners will reconvene for the third game of their four-game series.