ANAHEIM -- Zack Greinke wasn't his usual, unassuming self while toeing the rubber for the Angels on Tuesday night. He was a lot more, well, animated.
"I was jumping all over the place today," he said after a 5-4 win over the Mariners, which helped the Angels maintain relevance in the American League Wild Card race. "I think I had too much energy drinks going into the game and couldn't control myself out there a couple times."
Short-lived as it was due to an escalating pitch count, Greinke did control the opposition, becoming the first pitcher in the live-ball era (since 1920) to strike out 13 batters in a five-inning outing. That set the tone for a fourth straight win, which put the Angels 16 games over .500 for the first time since the end of 2009, and a team-wide 20-strikeout performance, which tied for the most ever in a nine-inning game.
On this night, though, the Angels didn't really get the outside help they need.
The A's won in Texas, 3-2 in 10 innings, to keep the Angels two games back of the second AL Wild Card spot with eight games left. The Rays beat the Red Sox, 5-2, to give them six straight wins and put them one game back of the Angels. But the Wild Card-leading Orioles lost to the Blue Jays, 4-0, dropping their lead on the Angels to 2 1/2 games.
All that information was contained in Angel Stadium's right-field out-of-town scoreboard, and the Angels surely noticed.
"Trust me, we're scoreboard-watching. I don't care what anybody says," outfielder Torii Hunter said. "I mean, regardless, we're going to focus on what we need to focus on in the field; we're not worried about that. But when you look up there, you're like, 'Aw, man. OK, let's do what we have to do here.'"
The Angels did that by scoring two runs in the first off Erasmo Ramirez, when Albert Pujols hit an RBI single and Hunter scored on a shallow sac fly, then adding two in the fifth on a two-run homer by Hunter (his 16th) and taking a 5-1 lead on Erick Aybar's eighth home run in the sixth.
Scott Downs quickly made it a one-run game in the seventh, giving up an RBI double to Franklin Gutierrez and a two-run shot by Justin Smoak, his second of the game. But Kevin Jepsen recorded the next four outs to get the Angels into the ninth with a one-run lead.
And this time, Ernesto Frieri, who spoiled Greinke's last two gems with ninth-inning meltdowns, pitched a clean frame, recording two strikeouts to make the Angels only the fourth team in history, and first since 1998, to record 20 strikeouts in nine innings. They are the first to do it with multiple pitchers, as it was previously done twice by Roger Clemens and once by Kerry Wood.
"I was like, 'This won't happen a third time; I have to do my best this time,' " Frieri said. "I'm glad I just went out there and threw quality strikes. That's what I have to do every time -- hit my spots. If the glove is outside, I'm going to throw it outside, don't leave it in the middle."
Greinke struck out the side in the first, became the fourth different pitcher in Angels history to record four strikeouts in one inning in the fourth, then struck out Eric Thames to strand the bases loaded in the fifth, causing an unusual display of emotion from the right-hander and ending his outing at 110 pitches.
"We just missed some pitches we needed to get to, and Greinke threw the ball well," Mariners skipper Eric Wedge said. "He had that big slow breaking ball that he can drop in there at any time. He led with it and threw it 2-0 a lot of times. And of course he has a good fastball and a strong changeup tonight, too."
Greinke gave up only a Smoak homer, which replay upheld, while scattering seven hits and walking two to put him at 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA over his last seven starts.
"Greinke, man, he's really carrying us right now," Hunter said. "He really looks good."
But due in large part to the workload it took to record all those strikeouts, he failed to pitch into the sixth for the first time since Aug. 8.
"Not only was he striking out a lot of guys, but he got into a lot of deep counts, a lot of 3-2 counts and they fouled a lot of pitches off," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had to work for every out. His pitch count was extraordinarily high for five innings, but he was pitching well. It was a little strange how everything came together."
Greinke couldn't really explain how he was able to fan 13 batters in five innings, giving him a season high while falling two short of his career best. Most of the time, he was trying to do what any smart starting pitcher does: generate early contact.
Perhaps it was the energy drinks.
"Nah, if that was the case I'd do it every time," Greinke said. "Last time I had too much before the game was when I got kicked out after four pitches [while with the Brewers on July 7], so I've been trying to back off of that a little bit."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.