It wasn't Cory Rasmus' fault. He allowed one hit over four scoreless innings Tuesday night as manager Mike Scioscia used the bullpen-by-committee formula that worked so well the last three times Rasmus started in place of injured Garrett Richards.
But this time, the six relievers who followed Rasmus couldn't contain the Seattle Mariners in a 13-2 defeat.
"Those 'bullpen days,' where we have gotten to a certain point in the game with the lead, we have held it and done a good job," Scioscia said. "Cory got us off on the right foot and really got the game on our terms and where it needed to be. But we just didn't pass the baton like we have been all year."
One night after becoming the first team in the majors to secure a playoff trip, the Angels lost for only the fourth time in 21 games. But their magic number for clinching their first division title since 2009 was trimmed to two with Oakland's 6-3 loss to Texas.
"You're not going to get it done every night," Scioscia said. "But what these guys in the room have been doing is remarkable, especially with the guys that are injured right now. I mean, it's inspiring. We just let one get away tonight, so we'll just turn the page on this one and get after it again tomorrow."
Rasmus, making his fourth start since Richards went down with a season-ending knee injury on Aug. 20, made 42 pitches and retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced. The only blemish was a leadoff single by Kyle Seager in the second.
The Angels were 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA in the other three games in which Rasmus led the way.
"I'd like to do all I can, but I guess that's all I'm doing for now," Rasmus said. "At the end of the day, it's their decision on what they feel if I get tired, look a little tired or whatever. Today, I was just kind of cruising. I was pretty efficient throughout the four innings I threw, and that made it a little better on my body."
Jason Grilli (1-3) replaced Rasmus in the fifth with a 2-0 lead and gave up a two-run double to Mike Zunino, ending an 0-for-18 drought for the Mariners with runners in scoring position. Chris Taylor chased Grilli with an RBI double and Dustin Ackley capped the rally with another run-scoring double against Mike Morin.
Seattle broke it open with six runs in the sixth. Their 13 runs tied a season high, and were one fewer than they had in their previous eight games combined.
The Mariners climbed within a game of the second AL wild-card spot. The Athletics still lead the wild-card race by a game over Kansas City, which has a one-game edge on the Mariners for the final postseason berth.
Carson Smith (1-0) earned his first major league victory with two innings of hitless relief in his fifth appearance. Mariners starter Roenis Elias allowed two runs and five hits in three-plus innings before leaving due to elbow stiffness with a 2-0 deficit.
CUE THE BUBBLY
If the Angels can wrap things up Wednesday night with a win and an Oakland loss, it would be the second-earliest division clincher in franchise history. The earliest was on Sept. 10, 2008, when they did it in their 145th game. Six of the Angels' eight AL West clinchers have come at home, including the last three (2007-09).
Angels: Rookie RHP Matt Shoemaker, removed from Monday night's 8-1 win after 7 2-3 innings, is expected to miss at least one turn in the rotation because of a mild strain on his left side. Shoemaker is 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA. ... Josh Hamilton returned to the lineup, batting sixth as the DH. He went 1 for 3 after missing 11 games because of an injured right shoulder.
Mariners: James Paxton (6-2, 1.83 ERA) threw seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball against the Angels in his season debut and beat them again six days later. But he didn't pitch again for Seattle until Aug. 2, after missing more than 3 1/2 months because of a strained muscle in his left side.
Angels: C.J. Wilson (12-9, 4.61) has a 6.64 ERA in 13 starts since June 19 — the last time he pitched seven full innings. He went five innings last Friday against Houston and left with a 3-2 deficit, but got credit for an 11-3 win after his teammates got him off the hook with seven runs in the bottom of the fifth.
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