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Garland doesn't look like a playoff pitcher in win

September 25, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- Jon Garland's September fade could very well cost the veteran right-hander a spot in the Angels' division series rotation. His second-half slump could jeopardize his chances of returning to the Angels next season.

Garland, whose first-half consistency helped the Angels absorb injuries to John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, struggled again Wednesday night, giving up five runs and 11 hits in five innings of the Angels' 6-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Safeco Field.

The Angels took Garland off the hook by rallying for three runs in the sixth, an inning that featured Sean Rodriguez's two-run double, and Mark Teixeira broke a 5-5 tie with a solo home run off reliever Mark Lowe in the eighth.

Reliever Darren Oliver (7-1) threw two perfect innings for the win, Scot Shields escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth with a strikeout of Ichiro Suzuki and Yuniesky Betancourt's groundout, and closer Francisco Rodriguez added a scoreless ninth for his 62nd save, extending his major league record.

The win enabled the Angels (98-60) to retain their two-game advantage over Tampa Bay for home-field advantage throughout playoffs with four to play and sent the Mariners to their 100th loss.

Where Garland is headed is difficult to determine. If the Angels go with a three-man playoff rotation of Lackey, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders in the first round, Garland would be in the bullpen.

If they start with a four-man rotation, Manager Mike Scioscia must choose between Garland and Jered Weaver for the last spot.

"Certainly, there are some things to look at as far as who we give the ball to, but Jon has pitched some terrific ball for us," Scioscia said. "He's not as locked in as he was, but it's in there. He's not that far off.

"He's got better baseball in him, we know that."

In his last seven starts, Garland has given up 31 earned runs and 54 hits in 38 2/3 innings for a 7.22 ERA. His ERA has gone up in each of the past three months, from 3.98 in June, to 5.46 in July, to 5.57 in August, to 7.18 in September.

Garland, 29, is in the final year of a three-year, $29-million contract that paid him $12 million this season. With owner Arte Moreno looking to keep his payroll in the $125-million range and the Angels poised to make a strong push to retain the costly Teixeira, it's doubtful they'll spend another $12 million on a pitcher coming off a mediocre year.

Remarkably, Garland is a respectable 14-8, and even during his recent seven-start slide he is 3-0 with four no-decisions. For that, he can thank his teammates, who have backed him with 58 runs during that stretch.

Garland gave up a run in the first and another run on four hits in the second, an inning that ended with left fielder Garret Anderson cutting down Miguel Cairo at the plate.

Seattle scored three more runs in the fifth on Jeremy Reed's RBI double and Bryan LaHair's RBI single for a 5-2 lead.

But Erick Aybar led off the sixth with a double, Mike Napoli walked, and Rodriguez doubled to right-center for two runs. Chone Figgins singled, putting runners on first and third, and Rodriguez scored the tying run on Anderson's double-play grounder.

When Teixeira worked the count to 2-and-0 off Lowe in the eighth, he knew just what he wanted to do.

"Very few times do I go up there trying to hit a home run, but the game was tied in the eighth, and they have a good bullpen," Teixeira said. "I was looking to drive the ball, I got a pitch middle in and put a good swing on it."

The result was a shot into the right-field seats, Teixeira's fourth hit of the game, his 13th homer since his July 29 trade from Atlanta and 33rd of the season.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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