Mike Trout’s two-run homer in the seventh inning Saturday lifted the Los Angeles Angels to a 5-4 victory over the Mariners, who are now 1-5 on a season-opening trip that ends Sunday at Angel Stadium.
Three takeaways from Saturday’s game:
***Don’t pitch to Trout (especially with the game on the line): It seems the Mariners should know better than anyone not to pitch to Angels superstar Mike Trout in crucial situations.
Not only do general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais know Trout as well as anyone since they came from the Angels. But Trout simply kills the Mariners, as he did again Saturday with a two-run homer in the seventh inning.
Sure, reliever Evan Scribner missed on the pitch. But Trout’s a good enough hitter on good pitches to hurt opponents. When he gets a cookie, he eats in one bite. One loud bite.
One argument against pitching around Trout in the clutch is a belief that it turns an aging Albert Pujols back into his once-intimidating self. Maybe so, but how much worse can it be?
***Panic is close at hand: The Mariners keep saying they’re not panicking over their poor start, but Jean Segura’s decision to go from first to third on an infield grounder with one out is the sort of play that clubs attempt when, well, panicking.
It’s a low-percentage, try-to-make-something-happen play. Segura was thrown out, although it required an acrobatic play by shortstop Andrelton Simmons and a replay review. (If first baseman Jefry Marte makes a good throw, it’s an easy out.)
The Mariners spent all spring saying a fast start was important after near postseason misses in 2014 and 2016 that could be traced, in part, to poor April showings. So it’s hard to swallow now when they attempt to shrug off a 1-5 start.
***Some hopeful signs: Look hard enough, and Saturday’s loss did produce some positives. Felix Hernandez bounced back from a minor groin ailment by throwing 100 pitches in six innings and had a second straight games with no walks.
Segura’s ill-conceived dash notwithstanding, he had three more hits and is batting .333. Mitch Haniger hit his second homer in six games, and Danny Valencia seems to be making better contact.
But the middle core of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager remains a black hole. Cano had a ground-ball single, Cruz had a sacrifice fly and Seager contributed a bloop double. But don’t be fooled. The swings still aren’t great.
The three are a combined 10-for-66. That’s killing the Mariners.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners