Mariners-Angels Preview

It was only five weeks ago that the Los Angeles Angels faced a multiple-game deficit in the AL West, but they've used that short amount of time to turn the tables of the division race while becoming the first team in baseball to clinch a playoff spot. The Seattle Mariners have far less time to make up the ground necessary if they plan to join them. Los Angeles seeks its 12th victory in 13 tries as it looks to deal the visiting Mariners another blow to their postseason hopes Tuesday night. The Angels (94-56) fell four games back of Oakland on Aug. 10, but they've gone 26-7 since to leapfrog the reeling Athletics while opening a 10 1/2-game lead. They clinched at least a wild-card berth for the first time since 2009 and brought their magic number to three in the West with Monday's 8-1 win over the Mariners. With a playoff spot wrapped up, Los Angeles is focusing on finishing the regular season strong as it seeks its first World Series title since 2002. ''Guys are aware that this is one little milestone that we need, and I think they're proud of that,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ''But we have a long way to go. I think these guys know the bigger prize that we need to keep our eyes on.'' David Freese and Brennan Boesch homered, and Albert Pujols added a three-run double in the third. Pujols, though, felt a cramp in his left hamstring while running to second and had to leave. He attributed the injury to dehydration and said he plans to play in this contest. ''Just because you earn a (playoff) spot, that doesn't mean you've done your job," Pujols said. Seattle (80-69) is trying to return to the postseason for the first time since 2001, but it has scored just three times during a three-game losing streak. It has lost five of six and trails Kansas City by two games for the second wild card. Dustin Ackley returned after missing six of the last seven with a left ankle injury, but he had to leave again in the sixth after going 1 for 3. The Mariners will turn to Roenis Elias to help get them back on track. Elias (10-12, 3.81 ERA) has pitched extremely well over his last nine starts, going 3-4 with a 2.08 ERA. He's allowed two earned runs or fewer in each outing, including last Tuesday when he gave up one in six innings of Seattle's 2-1 loss to Houston. The left-handed rookie hasn't received any run support in four of his last five starts. "I'm just focused on helping the team to go as far as we can, whether it's the playoffs or not," Elias said. Elias, though, has lost both of his starts against the Angels with a 5.56 ERA. He'll be opposed in this contest by Cory Rasmus and likely will be the first of many to take the mound for the Angels. Scioscia has elected to use Rasmus (3-1, 2.80), normally a reliever, and the rest of the bullpen in the rotation spot previously occupied by Garrett Richards, who is out for the season after knee surgery. Rasmus will be making his fourth straight start, though hasn't thrown more than 49 pitches in any outing, which he did Thursday while allowing one run in 3 1-3 innings of the Angels' 7-3 win over Texas. ''I felt it was another step forward,'' Rasmus said. ''Everybody feels pretty excited about our bullpen. You throw your inning or two innings and put up a zero, everybody does the same.'' The right-hander has a 1.69 ERA in 5 1-3 innings of relief against Seattle in his career.