Angels, Mariners try to finish strong

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels will take the field Friday night at Angel Stadium with virtually nothing to play for.

With their loss to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, the Angels were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, while the Mariners were eliminated last Sunday.

There may be some interest, though, in how Angels center fielder Mike Trout finishes the season, considering he is an American League MVP candidate despite missing 48 games this season, most of them due to a torn thumb ligament that required surgery.

In his first five full major league seasons, Trout finished either first or second in the MVP voting each time -- winning it twice (2014, '16) and placing second three times (2012, '13, '15).

No player in major league history has finished in the top two in six consecutive seasons.

There are plenty of worthy candidates around the league this season -- like the New York Yankees' Aaron Judge, the Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, and the Cleveland Indians' Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor -- who will garner votes. But Trout's numbers, despite missing so many games, should attract attention from the voters as well.

"I'm just gonna try to finish strong," Trout told the Los Angeles Times. "Guys are having great years. With Judge, Altuve, even (Jose) Ramirez from Cleveland is having an unbelievable season. I'll keep going to the end and see what happens."

Trout needs six plate appearance to reach 502 for the season, and thereby qualifying for the end-of-season statistical crowns.

He leads the majors in on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.066), and he leads the AL in on-base percentage (.444) and ranks second in slugging percentage (.622). His .306 batting average is tied for sixth, his 93 walks rank third, and his .838 walks per game are more than his average last season (.730), when he led the majors with 116.

Trout also has cut down his strikeouts significantly: With 90 strikeouts, he likely will finish with fewer than 100 for the first time in his career.

"The biggest thing is, with all the walks, my timing just has been on," Trout told the Times. "When my timing's off, that's when my strikeouts are up, when I'm swinging at bad pitches. You want to limit it to a game, limit it to an at-bat, or even pitches within an at-bat."

Tyler Skaggs, who is 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA in his career vs. the Mariners, will start Friday for the Angels in what will be his last start of a disappointing season. He missed 3 1/2 months with a strained oblique muscle and is 2-6 with a 4.48 ERA in 15 starts.

However, he had one of his best two starts of the season in his only appearance against Seattle this year. He threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a victory over the Mariners on Aug. 10.

Marco Gonzales, who came to the Mariners in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for a minor-leaguer on July 21, is 1-1 with a 5.51 ERA in nine games (six starts) for Seattle. One of those starts came against the Angels. On Aug. 11, he gave up one run and four hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 6-5 loss in his only career appearance against Los Angeles.

Even if the Mariners (77-82) sweep the final three games from the Angels (78-81), they would finish below .500 and wind up with a worse record than last season, when they were 86-76.

"The finality of it all hurts; there's no question about it," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I thought we did an unbelievable job this year to kind of hang in there. As water was coming into the boat, we were throwing it out to try and keep afloat.

"That's really how I felt, and our staff and our players, we just kept battling and fighting. It says a lot for our guys to keep it up like that as long as we did."
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