ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Angels manager Mike Scioscia bristled at the notion that his team had it easy this year.
The AL West champions won another close game Sunday when Chone Figgins hit an RBI single in the ninth inning Sunday, giving Los Angeles a 4-3 win over Seattle and a four-game sweep.
The Angels, who clinched the division with 2 1/2 weeks left, have won 21 times in their final bat. Overall, they’ve played 49 games decided by one run.
“From the first day of spring training to where we are now, nothing about this season has been easy or in any remote sense would be called a walkover,” Scioscia said. “I’ve been with these guys every day, and we’ve had tough games every night.”
“We’ve played very well and other teams have had some issues. That’s probably what’s separated us from them in the standings,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have depth and maintain the high level of play through some injuries, where other clubs have had a little tougher time meeting those challenges.”
Seattle has lost eight of 11 following a 7-1 spurt, and are a season-worst 34 1/2 games out of first place. The Mariners have to win six of their final 14 games to avoid their fourth 100-loss season and first since 1983, when they were 60-102 under manager Del Crandall.
Scioscia believes this season was an aberration, and expects the West to be much tougher next season.
“Where you finish one year is really irrelevant as to what your projections will be for the next year,” Scioscia said. “A team like Seattle certainly has the ability to jump right back up and be contenders when you look at an Erik Bedard, a Felix Hernandez and a Carlos Silva, who’s obviously going to throw the ball much better than he has this year.”
Ninth-place hitter Sean Rodriguez tripled just beyond the reach of Ichiro Suzuki with one out in the ninth. Figgins followed with a drive off the right-field wall against Roy Corcoran (5-1) for his third game-ending hit this season.
Seattle manager Jim Riggleman employed a five-man infield against Figgins, with Suzuki as the extra glove stationed in front of second base.
“That was surprising. I don’t think Ichiro really wanted to become an infielder, because he was coming in kind of slow,” Figgins said. “I was just trying to hit a flyball anywhere. And when you’ve got a guy like Garret (Anderson) hitting behind me, it’s a lot easier to get pitches to hit.”
Jose Arredondo (9-2) pitched a scoreless ninth for the victory.
Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez wasn’t needed, a day after setting the major league record with his 58th save this year.
Mark Teixeira reached the 30-homer mark for the fifth straight season with a leadoff shot in the sixth. It was his 200th career home run and 10th home run since joining the Angels in a July 29 trade with Atlanta.
Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre, scheduled to undergo surgery on his left wrist and left shoulder next Thursday, played his final game of the season. He batted .266 in 143 games with 25 homers, and his 77 RBIs represented his lowest total in four seasons with Seattle.
“It’s been a gutty performance all year for Beltre,” Riggleman said. “I mean, from the day he reported for spring training, his thumb was still messed up. And here we are, 215 days later, and he was still playing ball. He’s just an animal. He’s a guy you dream about managing.”
Santana allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings and struck out three, increasing his season total to 200 and putting himself within 14 of Toronto’s A.J. Burnett for the AL lead. The first-time All-Star also established a career high with 205 1-3 innings, and will get a week off before his next start.
When Santana fanned Bryan LaHair leading off the fifth, the right-hander became the ninth different pitcher in the Angels’ 41-year history to strike out 200 or more batters in a season, and the first since Chuck Finley in 1999. He has used both the changeup and slider as his strikeout pitches.
“I’m surprised about the 200 strikeouts, but I’m happy about it,” Santana said while holding the milestone ball. “I’ve had good command and I’m finishing off the hitters. Throwing first-pitch strikes is the key.”
Santana is the Angels’ first RHP with 200 or more strikeouts since 1986, when Mike Witt had 208 and Kirk McCaskill had 202. RHP John Lackey came within one strikeout of 200 in 2005. … Suzuki was 1-for-5 and needs five hits for his eighth consecutive 200-hit season, which would tie the major league record Wee Willie Keeler set between 1894 and 1901. The only other players in club history with 200 or more hits in a season were Alex Rodriguez (1996 and 1998) and Bret Boone (2001).