It’s not as if Mike Trout only hammers the Mariners, but it’s appropriate they were on hand Saturday when he received his 2016 Most Valuable Player and Silver Slugger awards in a pre-game ceremony.
The Mariners played a key role in Trout winning those awards, and they’re already doing their part again this year.
Trout boomed a two-run homer in the seventh inning against reliever Evan Scribner that boosted the Los Angeles Angels to a 5-3 victory that extended the Mariners’ downward spiral through the season’s first week.
"I was trying to get in on his hands there," Scribner said, "and I missed by a little bit, and he got to it and muscled it out. He’s the one guy we don’t want to let him beat us, and I gave him a pitch to hit there."
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The Mariners talked all spring of the need to get off to a good start after barely falling short of postseason in two of the last three seasons. They are now 1-5 with only Sunday’s series finale remaining before they head home.
"I think sometimes when you put that pressure on it," catcher Mike Zunino said, "you (struggle). We’re pitching well. We’ve had some decent at-bats. We just haven’t strung them together.
"We’ve hit a bump in the road, but I think it’s one of those things where, once we get rolling, we’ll be fine."
Trout’s homer broke a 3-3 tie before the Mariners crept closer by scoring once in the eighth inning on Nelson Cruz’s sacrifice fly. LA closer Cam Bedrosian protected the one-run lead in the ninth.
A year ago, Trout ravaged the Mariners for seven homers and 17 RBIs while compiling a .438 on-base percentage and a .730 slugging percentage in 19 games against the Mariners.
"Obviously, he’s done his damage against us in the past," manager Scott Servais said. "We were trying not to make a mistake, and we made a mistake."
Trout was actually hitless, with two strikeouts, in three at-bats against Mariners starter Felix Hernandez, including a memorable 14-pitch battle in the first inning that ended in a called strike.
But, oh, Trout crushed an 89-mph fastball from Scribner. It was a no-doubter that soared 417 feet to center field.
The Mariners jumped to a quick lead when Jean Segura opened the game with a line single to center, and Mitch Haniger (VIDEO LINK) followed with a two-run homer to left-center field against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco.
Hernandez started on his 31st birthday and ended the first inning by winning that showdown with Trout before finding trouble in the second.
Albert Pujols led off with a double and went to third on Cameron Maybin’s one-out single. Both hits came on 1-2 off-speed pitches. Hernandez struck out Jefry Marte but gave up a two-out RBI single to Danny Espinosa.
The Angels then tried for a bunt by Martin Maldonado, but Maldonado was called out for being inside the line when hit by Hernandez’s throw to first.
It was a temporary reprieve.
Yunel Escobar (VIDEO LINK) opened the third with a double over the head of center fielder Leonys Martin and went to third on a wild pitch. Kole Calhoun tied the game with a single up the middle.
The Mariners wasted a chance to regain the lead after Danny Valencia’s leadoff double in the fifth.
Valencia went to third on Martin’s fly to deep center, but Nolasco got a key strikeout when Zunino swung at three pitches out of the zone.
The Angels then took the lead when Escobar opened the bottom of the inning with a 411-foot homer to straightaway center.
Zunino atoned for his whiff in the fifth with a two-out RBI single in the seventh (VIDEO LINK) against reliever (and former teammate) J.C. Ramirez. It scored Kyle Seager, who opened the inning with a bloop single.
Both starters settled for no-decisions. Hernandez gave up three runs and 10 hits in six innings. Nolasco permitted just two hits (and no runs) after Haniger’s homer in his six innings.
"I think I had good stuff today," Hernandez said. "They just fouled off good pitches. A few mistakes. A few leadoff doubles hurt me a little bit. And a two-seamer that came back into the middle of the plate against Escobar."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Segura was breaking from first base with one out in the third inning when Haniger grounded to third. Segura kept running as Yunel Escobar threw across the diamond.
Marte’s return throw to third was high, but shortstop Andrelton Simmons (VIDEO LINK) made an acrobatic catch and tag as Segura went into a head-first slide. Initially called safe, the call was overturned on a video review.
"He’s an aggressive player," Servais said. "He was trying to make something happen. Probably a little too chancy, too risky right there."
PLUS: Segura had three hits in four at-bats and is batting .333. No other Mariner is above .208…Martin took extra bases away from Marte (VIDEO LINK) in the fourth inning by making a diving catch in the left-center gap…While Hernandez gave up 10 hits, he held Trout hitless in three at-bats. Two strikeouts and a grounder to second.
MINUS: The Mariners’ woes with runners in scoring position continued when they went 1-for-6, which was actually above their season average. They are now 5-for-49 through six games — a .102 average…left fielder Jarrod Dyson mishandled Marte’s single in the seventh inning. The error permitted Marte to reach second.
STAT PACK: Trout and Hernandez battled through 14 pitches (VIDEO LINK) in the first inning before Trout took a third strike. Trout had nine foul balls in the at-bat. It was the longest at-bat by any opposing player in Hernandez’s career.
"He was fouling off good pitches, man," Hernandez said. "He’s a tough hitter. I made good pitches to him, and I got him out."
QUOTABLE: "When you’re not hitting," Servais said, "it looks like you’re not trying. The fan base and others are saying, `Oh, these guys don’t care.’ They care. Trust me."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners