MLB

Angels-Mariners Preview

Though the Los Angeles Angels have been cooled off a bit by the Seattle Mariners, they still have a chance to head into the All-Star break atop the AL West.

The Angels can possibly find themselves in that position by managing a split of their four-game road set with the Mariners on Sunday.

Los Angeles (47-40) has been held to two runs in its two losses over the first three of this set, but can take a one-half game lead in the division with a victory Sunday and loss by first-place Houston. Despite falling 5-0 on Saturday, the Angels are 36-25 since they were seven games out of first on May 4 and had won nine of 10 prior to facing Seattle (41-47).

The Angels, who last sat alone atop the West on April 17, are focused on the long haul.

"Everybody's sticking together right now," shortstop Erick Aybar told MLB's official website. "We'll see what happens (after the All-Star break)."

Hisashi Iwakuma survived a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the first and allowed three of Los Angeles' four hits over eight strong innings. Mike Trout had one of those hits, and is batting .375 in his last 11 contests.

The Angels might feel confident they can rebound behind Andrew Heaney (2-0, 1.77 ERA), who has allowed four runs, struck out 17 and walked three in 20 1-3 innings over three starts since making his Angels debut June 24. He gave up half of those runs and overcame eight hits in 7 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 10-2 rout of Colorado.

"I'm just comfortable with what I'm doing," the left-hander said. "I'm confident in what I'm doing and being able to just be aggressive with what I've got."

Considered the Angels' top prospect after being acquired in the December deal that sent second baseman Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers, Heaney is making a case to remain in the rotation when veteran Jered Weaver returns from a hip issue.

"I do my thing, I go out there and pitch, and whatever happens, happens," Heaney said. "I'd like to think I've given myself an opportunity."

He'll try to tame a Mariners' lineup that received a combined seven hits from Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and ex-Angel Mark Trumbo on Saturday. Trumbo, who drove in a pair of runs, is 12 for 22 in his last seven contests.

Cruz is hitting .464 (13 for 28) in the last seven games against Los Angeles after going 2 for 19 in the first five meetings this season.

Seattle's Taijuan Walker (7-6, 4.53) posted a 1.68 ERA while winning six of seven prior to giving up five runs on three homers in six innings of a 7-6, 11-inning home victory over Detroit on Tuesday. The right-hander, who last lost June 3 to the New York Yankees, was much better June 26 when he yielded a homer to Trout and didn't walk anybody over seven innings of a 3-1 victory at Anaheim.

Teammate Austin Jackson went 0 for 5 on Saturday in his return from missing the previous two contests with back spasms. Though Jackson is 4 for 32 with nine strikeouts in nine games this month, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon doesn't seem too concerned.

"I believe Austin is going to be just fine,'' he said.

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