Losing to the team closest to them in the American League West, 9-1, ended the Seattle Marienrs month of August with a 15-12 record – and reminded them just how tough finishing at .500 will be.
The Los Angeles Angels beat them, and in the 29 games remaining, the Mariners will play the Angels, Rangers and Athletics 20 times. Against those three teams, Seattle is 17-20 in 2012.
Kevin Millwood got hit early and needed 117 pitches to get 15 outs, leaving after five innings down, 5-1. It didn’t get better.
It didn’t help, either, that the Mariners had to pull outfielder Michael Saunders after he made a nice running catch in the fourth inning – reaggravating a groin strain that already cost him six games. He’s day-to-day.
The Mariners were handcuffed by Angels starter Dan Haren, against whom the league was batting .289.
Though major league rosters can expand today, Seattle’s apparently will not. Manager Eric Wedge said the team will wait until Tacoma’s AAA season ends Monday before recalling players.
Meanwhile, Seattle will enter September with a 64-68 record and only a small realistic chance of getting to .500. Can they finish on a 17-12 run? Probably not, given who they play.
They can, however, blow past the 2011 mark of 67 wins and, perhaps, help Felix Hernandez to a second Cy Young Award. Felix, who goes Saturday, is 13-5 with a 2.43 earned run average.
Given him a few runs perstart, he’ll likely run the table.
A month that allowed the Seattle Mariners to gain ground on self respect, August went out on a stretcher Friday.
The Los Angeles Angels battered it – and Kevin Millwood – into early submission in what became a 9-1 Seattle loss, one that dropped the Mariners August record to 15-12.
No, one loss wasn’t enough to overshadow the solid baseball Seattle has played since the All-Star break, but coming against the division rival closest to them in the standings?
It hurt, and left them with 29 games in which to feel better about the 2012 season.
Veteran Millwood, who has pitched better than his 4-12 record, didn’t in this one. After giving up a three-run, first-inning home run to Kendrys Morales, Millwood was in trouble in each of his five innings.
To get those 15 outs, he threw 117 pitches and allowed a good offensive team nine hits and four walks. A Safeco Field crowd of 17,779 was all but taken out of this game by Millwood’s inefficiency.
“He got better as he went along, but he didn’t have his best stuff,” manager Eric Wedge said.
Seattle’s hitters, meanwhile, were unable to solve starting pitcher Dan Haren, a man against whom the rest of baseball was batting .289.
Yes, they hit a few balls hard that weren’t his. Two of them, for instance, were turned into inning-ending double plays in the second and third on outstanding defensive plays by the Angels infield.
This game and series clearly mean more to the Angels, who are close in the wild card run at 70-62, but the Mariners have ambitions, too – including the possibility of finishing at .500 or better.
To do that now, they’re going to need a 17-12 finish.
That means winning at a .586 clip, and playing the Angels, Rangers and Athletics a combined 20 times.
Doable? Yes. Likely? No. The Mariners are 17-20 within the American League West.
After that three-run home run, the Angels tacked on runs the old-fashioned way. They got hits, stole bases, got runners home from third base with less than two outs.
The Mariners couldn’t do any of that, played sloppily on defense and couldn’t string hits together.
The one run they got, on John Jaso’s two-out RBI in the first inning, came after a two-base throwing error by Haren set it up. After that, the Mariners were held in check – no-hit in the middle innings.
The Mariners may have lost more than a game. Michael Saunders, reinstalled in the outfield after missing six games with a groin strain, came out after making a running catch in the fourth inning.
“We didn’t want to risk him further aggravating it,” Wedge said.
Saunders will be evaluated today, but likely will be used with caution the rest of this series. If six days off didn’t cure the problem, 16 hours isn’t likely too, either.
With the game one-sided, that crowd had to pick its spots for cheering and found one in a rookie-on-rookie seventh-inning matchup – pitcher Carter Capps vs. Mike Trout.
Trout, who blew past the franchise rookie record for runs in a season by scoring three to get o 106, had a good night Friday even while going 1-for-5.
But against Capps in the seventh, Trout struck out swinging at and missing a 100 mph fastball.
That got a Safeco Field buzz.
For that matter, so did a Dustin Ackley single to leadoff the bottom of the ninth – and those who were left in the ball park saw Franklin Gutierrez follow it with Seattle’s seventh hit, another single.
Three ninth-inning runs off rookie left-hander Lucas Luetge, however, put the Angels up big, and the Mariners need considerably more than two singles.
On the final day of August, they simply weren’t up to it.