If the Seattle Mariners were happy to be leaving Cleveland after losing four straight games – three in walk-off fashion, then they should feel ecstatic leaving Anaheim and putting it behind them.
It was only a brief two-game series against the American League West-rival Angels, but it felt so much longer.
For the second straight day, the Mariners were done in shortly after the game started, getting another short and underwhelming starting pitching performance and doing little afterward in a 7-1 loss at Angels Stadium
It was the Mariners’ sixth-straight loss. And all the good feelings from the series win against the Yankees to start this road trip, and the perceived optimism from playing the Indians tough despite being swept in four games have disappeared quicker than the sunshine in the Puget Sound.
The simmering panic and irritation amongst the Mariners fan base has exploded into full-on rage and bitterness in that span of seven days, thanks to the two beatdowns the Mariners slogged their way through against the Angels.
If it wasn’t for Michael Saunders scoring Brendan Ryan from third on a ground ball to first base and snapping a 16-inning scoreless streak, the Mariners would have been shut out in the series.
Seattle was outscored 19-1 in two games, and no facet of the game – pitching, hitting or fielding was competent.
It was bad enough that the veterans on the team called a players’ only meeting after the game to discuss what’s going on.
“We just felt that it was a good time for it, that it was a necessary thing to do,” Raul Ibanez said.
Obviously what was said in the meeting wasn’t shared with the media. But the gist of it was simple.
“This is a whole different brand of baseball,” shortstop Brendan Ryan said. “This is not the baseball we wanted to come in here and play. The losses in Cleveland were tough but the hunger and drive were there. This was not good. We look around the league and we feel we can compete with any team. These last two games we aren’t going to compete with anybody.”
Even in the losses in Cleveland, the Mariners were competitive. They were not against the Angels. It could be felt amongst the players.
“That determination of, ‘if they score 15, then we score 16,’ it didn‘t seem to be there,” Ryan said. “I don’t know if we were feeling sorry for ourselves or what.”
So the meeting is hopefully a step to putting a stop to it.
“We are going to play the brand of baseball we want to play from Friday on out,” Ryan said. “This was a little discouraging.”
Of course, it’s a little discouraging to get the type of starting pitching performances the Mariners have gotten in the two losses.
A day after Aaron Harang made it just 3 2/3 innings and giving up seven runs, rookie right-hander Brandon Maurer made it just three innings, giving up seven runs on 11 hits, while walking two and striking out two.
Growing up in nearby Costa Mesa, Maurer had plenty of friends and family watching his pseudo homecoming. But it didn’t go quite as planned. He struggled just to get out of the first inning, giving up five runs on five hits as all nine Angels’ hitters came to the plate.
“It was a tough day for Maurer,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He just wasn’t able to keep the ball down consistently. He made a lot of mistakes in the middle and up in the zone. He competed and battled. He’s a tough kid. There were some plays early in the game that would have helped him.”
In the first inning, the Mariners could have limited the damage if Michael Saunders or Dustin Ackley were able to come up with bloop single from Albert Pujols that landed between them. Ryan couldn’t come up with a tough play in the hole on a Mark Trumbo ground ball that could have gotten a force play at third and Ackley bobbled a sure double play ball only getting one out.
Those helped snowball the situation.
“I’d say a little bit, but they still hit my mistakes and took advantage of it,” Maurer said.
Maurer limited the damage to run in the second inning, getting out of a bases loaded jam by getting Howie Kendrick to ground into a 4-6-3 double play. Pitching coach Carl Willis met with Maurer on the mound before facing Kendrick.
“He said ‘this is how you become a man,’” Maurer said. “I threw a two-seamer and got a double play. I guess that’s a positive I can take out of it.
Maurer made it just one more inning give up in another run. Despite seeming to right himself a little, he had thrown 74 pitches in the three innings, all of them seemingly in high leverage situations.
“I didn’t want to push him any further than that,” Wedge said.
It was a frustrating for Maurer because he felt good physically.
“To be honest, I felt pretty good, they just hit the ball,” Maurer said. “Their line-up is stacked from top to bottom. Today was one of the best I’ve felt all year. It just wasn’t my day.”
It just wasn’t the Mariners series.