Mariners-Angels Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Angels still need some help, but they are doing their part to give themselves a chance to make the postseason.

Torii Hunter is leading the way with some clutch hitting down the stretch.

In their regular-season home finale, Hunter and the Angels look to complete a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.

Los Angeles kept pace with Oakland for the AL's second wild-card spot with a 4-3 win Wednesday. Hunter drove in the tying run in the seventh and the winning run with one out in the ninth.

The Angels (86-69) have won five straight and nine of 12. They remain two games behind the Athletics in the wild-card race.

"We're just laying in the weeds right now,'' said Hunter, a free agent at the end of the season. "They're the gazelle."

Despite Los Angeles not gaining any ground in the last two games, Hunter's heroics have helped keep the pressure on Oakland. He also hit a two-run homer in Tuesday's 5-4 victory.

Hunter has driven in 23 runs in 23 games in September while batting .322 with four homers.

"He's been playing so well pretty much all year, especially the last two months,'' said Peter Bourjos, who scored the tying run as a pinch-runner when Hunter singled in the seventh. "He's getting a lot of hits and really helping the team."

Dan Haren (12-11, 4.35 ERA) has been pretty impressive down the stretch as well. The right-hander has won four of his last five decisions after holding the White Sox to two runs over six innings Saturday in a 4-2 win.

"My split was working in the first inning - all three strikeouts were with the split - and I went to other pitches as it went along," Haren, who has a 2.45 ERA over his last six starts, told the Angels' official website. "Whether it's 86 or 91, I'm focusing on keeping the ball down. It's location for me."

Haren has faced the Mariners three times in 2012, and he didn't allow an earned run over 16 innings in two starts at Safeco Field. In his lone start in Anaheim, however, he gave up seven runs while lasting a season-low 3 1-3 innings in a 7-4 loss Aug. 11.

Seattle (72-83) will try to avoid the sweep and its fourth straight loss Thursday. It had five hits Wednesday, including a home run from Justin Smoak, who went deep twice Tuesday and is 17 for 37 (.459) over his last 10 games.

Smoak, though, is 2 for 15 against Haren.

The Mariners will hand the ball to Hisashi Iwakuma (7-5, 3.41), who has made two solid starts against the Angels this year. Iwakuma pitched 7 1-3 scoreless innings against them on Sept. 2 and gave up three runs in seven innings in Anaheim on Aug. 11, winning both starts.

The right-hander is 5-2 with a 2.39 ERA over his last eight starts overall. He allowed three runs in seven innings of a 6-3 win over Texas on Friday.

"He's a veteran guy out there, the way he pitches like an experienced starting pitcher,'' manager Eric Wedge said. "He executes pitches and understands certain situations and what type pitch he wants to throw.''

Hunter is 1 for 7 against Iwakuma.

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