The Seattle Mariners might have one of the best bullpens in the American League, but the Angels proved over the weekend that their relief corps is increasingly reliable.
Even without its closer.
For the second game in a row, the Angels got an outstanding relief effort from Brendan Donnelly, Scott Schoeneweis and Ben Weber and they completed a sweep of the first-place Mariners with a 7-5 victory Sunday before 34,945 at Edison Field.
Left-hander Jarrod Washburn pitched seven innings and extended his major-league leading winning streak to 12 games as the Angels pulled within a game of the AL West lead by sweeping a three-game series from the Mariners for the first time since June 16-18, 1998.
With Oakland losing to Texas, the Angels assumed sole possession of second place in the division heading into a three-game series with the Athletics starting Tuesday.
"They are definitely a completely different looking team from the beginning of the year when they were scuffling," said Mariner second baseman Bret Boone, who helped Seattle sweep the Angels in a four-game series at Edison Field in April. "They are playing real well and they are going to be tough.
"It's not going to be an easy race. It's going to be a little bit different from last year."
The Angels (58-39) scored 29 runs and had 41 hits during the series and improved to 19 games over .500 for the first time since 1995.
Catcher Jose Molina had a career-high three hits and drove in a run Sunday, Garret Anderson had two doubles and an RBI and Adam Kennedy had two hits and an RBI. Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad, Brad Fullmer and David Eckstein also drove in runs.
"We needed to prove that we could play with this team, especially with what happened against them early in the season," said Eckstein, the Angel shortstop who started a two-run rally in the seventh inning when he was hit by a pitch for a major-leading 16th time. "This is definitely big for us, but we still have a long season left."
The Angels' hopes are buoyed by a bullpen that is without closer Troy Percival and left-hander Dennis Cook, who are the disabled list. In addition, set-up man Al Levine came off the disabled list Saturday after missing 19 games.
The committee concept worked to perfection Saturday in a 7-6 victory and it worked again Sunday after the Angels overcame a 4-0 fourth-inning deficit to take a 6-5 lead in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Salmon and a run-scoring double by Anderson against reliever Jeff Nelson.
Donnelly, who struck out five in 2 1/3 innings on Saturday, replaced Washburn to start the eighth and struck out No. 3-hitter Boone and Edgar Martinez.
Angel Manager Mike Scioscia then summoned left-hander Schoeneweis to face John Olerud for the second night in a row. Olerud had given the Mariners a 5-4 lead in the sixth with his 17th home run. But just as he did the night before against Schoeneweis, Olerud hit a ground ball to first baseman Scott Spiezio for an out.
The Angels added a run in the eighth without hitting a ball out of the infield. Spiezio got hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to third on Molina's infield single and scored on Eckstein's ground ball.
With the crowd chanting, "Sweep," Weber came on for the ninth. He walked Ruben Sierra but got Mike Cameron to ground into a double play. Weber walked pinch-hitter Carlos Guillen, then struck out Desi Relaford for his fourth save.
"When we get everybody back healthy and doing what they're supposed to, it's only going to make the bullpen better," Schoeneweis said. "In Percy's absence, guys are stepping up."
Washburn continued a streak that began April 19, but did it without an overpowering effort. He opened the game by striking out Ichiro Suzuki on three pitches and retired nine of the first 10 batters. But he gave up four runs in the fourth.
"After that, I'm just trying to do all I can to keep them there," said Washburn, who gave up five runs, eight hits and struck out four in seven innings. "The way we've been playing, I thought we had a good chance of coming back and scrapping our way back into the game.
"You never deserve to win when you give up five runs but my teammates picked me up big time."