ANAHEIM, Calif. — Well, here you are, Mariners. Last place in the American League West Division. Yep, you’ve hit bottom after Wednesday’s 4-3 walk-off loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.
Not just any loss.
Another numbing loss. A second straight walk-off loss to the Angels. A fifth one-run loss in seven games on what turned into a soul-crushing road trip. These are all checkpoints on the road to Basement City.
“When bad energy comes around,” catcher Mike Zunino said, “it lingers until you get that one big hit or big inning or something clicks. We’ve had a couple of those opportunities, but we haven’t been able to close the door.”
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This was another bullpen fur ball. In Tuesday’s 5-4 giveaway, it was Danny Farquhar and Dominic Leone who buckled after the Mariners built a two-run lead in the eighth.
This time, the Mariners tied the game by scoring a run in the ninth against Angels closer Huston Street, who had not blown a save this season in nine previous opportunities.
But Carson Smith (0-2) then started the bottom of the inning by walking David Freese on four pitches. And as it’s ever been in baseball, walks haunt.
“I didn’t have my stuff today,” Smith said. “My location. It happens, but I’ve got to learn to pitch when I don’t have my best stuff. Hit my spots. Can’t walk the leadoff guy.”
Erick Aybar’s attempted sacrifice turned into a force at second, but Johnny Giavotella followed by squirting a double into the right-field corner. Aybar scored easily.
“Smith threw a sinker that ran up and in,” Zunino said, “but Giavotella was just able to get the barrel on it to get it down the right-field line. With Aybar already in motion, that just sped up the play.”
The loss dropped the Mariners to 11-17 and into the cellar. And by limping home at 4-6 on a 10-game trip that began with a three-game sweep at Texas…well, it’s hard to say it’s underserved.
“We were in second place two days ago,” third baseman Kyle Seager said. “We don’t like how we’re playing, but we’re going to keep battling, and when everything clicks…we’re going to be all right.”
Seager provided one of game’s silver linings by showing signs of emerging from an extended slump. He 5-for-32 on the road trip before his two-run homer (VIDEO LINK) in the fourth against Los Angeles starter C.J. Wilson.
And it was Seager’s leadoff double in the ninth that led to the tying run against Street — even if that only set the stage for greater heartbreak.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to suck it up,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “This is a very tough road trip for us in a lot of different ways. We certainly had opportunities to win ballgames.
“As the old saying goes, I think the baseball gods are testing us.”
It’s unfortunate, actually, that it was this loss that dropped the Mariners into last place. This was an entertaining and, generally, well-played game where, until the end, the biggest difference was Mike Trout.
Trout hit a mammoth two-run homer in the third inning against Mariners starter Roenis Elias, who paid dearly for a poor five-pitch stretch. Trout also made a fabulous catch in the seventh on a Chris Taylor drive into the gap.
Elias held the Angels to six hits in seven innings, but three — all for extra bases — came in succession in the third inning.
Trouble started when Collin Cowgill’s deep one-out drive clipped off the glove of center fielder Justin Ruggiano for a one-out triple.
“I should have had it,” Ruggiano said. “It hit the heel of my glove. It’s unfortunate because that would have given us two outs and nobody on base.”
Kole Calhoun drove Elias’ next pitch into the left-center gap for an RBI double, and Trout followed by crushing a 1-2 fastball deep onto the green batters’ eye beyond the center-field wall.
MLB Statcast listed Trout’s drive at 441 feet and, at least by that measure, was the longest of the season by an Angel. Seager’s homer against Wilson came the next inning and cut the Angels’ lead to 3-2.
That’s where it stayed until the ninth.
“Losing like that’s tough,” Seager said, “especially two days in a row. You tip your cap to them. We made our little run, (Tuesday) night going ahead and tonight tying it up, and they responded.”
Now, the Mariners have a day off to regroup before opening a nine-game homestand against Oakland, San Diego and Boston.
“Turn the page,” McClendon said. “It’s the big leagues. We didn’t execute when we needed to, and they beat us. Listen, there’s good days ahead for this ballclub. This is a very good ballclub, and they’re built to win.”
And now, there’s nowhere to go but up.