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OC Register: Rookie Matt Thaiss hits three-run homer to give Angels sweep of Seattle Mariners

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ANAHEIM – Matt Thaiss picked a good time to hit his first major league home run.

The Angels and Mariners were tied at 3 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday when Thaiss thumped a Roenis Elias fastball 374 feet to right field for a three-run home run. Thaiss, a 24-year-old rookie playing just his fifth game as an Angel, began the day with one hit in his first 14 at-bats.

When Thaiss circled the bases and returned to a jubilant dugout, the annual July “hug watch” ritual took on a new meaning. He was mobbed. After the game, teammates Kole Calhoun and Justin Bour each dumped a bucket full of liquid over Thaiss’ head. An Angels staffer handed the rookie a white towel to dry off. For Thaiss, the spoils of the Angels’ 6-3 victory were wet.

The win allowed the Angels (48-46) to sweep the three-game series against the Mariners (39-58) before an announced crowd of 38,560 at Angel Stadium. Thaiss finished 2 for 3, Ty Buttrey (5-4) was credited with the victory for throwing a scoreless eighth inning, and Hansel Robles tossed a scoreless ninth for his 13th save.

The only sour note: Mike Trout was removed after two innings with right calf tightness. He is considered day to day.

Kole Calhoun’s 21st home run of the season accounted for the Angels’ only run against Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi – and their only hit – until the fifth inning.

Kikuchi walked Dustin Garneau to begin the inning. Matt Thaiss singled to right field, ending a personal 0-for-13 skid, and knocking the left-handed pitcher out of the game. Right-hander Matt Carasiti took over and walked David Fletcher on five pitches, loading the bases.

Andrelton Simmons, who replaced Trout in the lineup, followed with a five-pitch walk of his own. It was only the 10th walk Simmons has drawn this season. Garneau trotted home with the Angels’ second run. The bases remained loaded for Shohei Ohtani, whose sacrifice fly to left-center field was plenty deep for Thaiss to tag up and score. The game was tied 3-3.

Angels starter Jose Suarez faced the Mariners for the third time in only his seventh major league start. This time, Seattle took a more patient approach against the 21-year-old left-hander. Suarez needed 91 pitches to get through 4 ⅓ innings. Control was not an issue. Suarez walked only one batter. He threw 27 pitches in two-strike counts.

The approach worked nonetheless. Three consecutive singles with two outs in the first inning gave the Mariners their first run. A solo home run by Austin Nola in the second inning put the Angels behind 2-0. After Calhoun’s homer found the concrete landing in right field, Domingo Santana answered with a solo home run of his own in the bottom of the third inning, giving Seattle a 3-1 lead.

Suarez was tagged for seven hits and three runs, all earned. He struck out seven, matching his most in a single game in his brief career. It could have been worse.

The Mariners ran into two outs at home plate in the fourth inning. With Nola at first base, Dylan Moore doubled to right field. Nola heeded the stop sign of coach Chris Prieto after rounding third base. When Mallex Smith hit a ground ball into a drawn-in infield, Nola broke from third base on contact, and Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons had a fairly easy out at home plate.

Moore went to third base on the play. Smith, who was safe at first base, tried to steal second but was picked off by Suarez. When Angels first baseman Albert Pujols saw Moore break for home plate in the middle of the ensuing rundown, he wheeled the ball to catcher Dustin Garneau for the third out.

Later, in the seventh inning, Smith broke from third base on a ground ball back to the mound. Angels pitcher Cam Bedrosian threw the ball to third baseman Matt Thaiss, who tagged Smith on the rear end to prevent another run with a couple feet to spare.

More to come on this story.

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