By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
ANAHEIM, Calif. — If the Seattle Mariners needed evidence of what poor defense can cost, all they had to do was watch the Los Angeles Angels.
Three early Angels errors helped Seattle jump ahead, 7-0, and Hisashi Iwakuma made certain they paid for those transgressions, pitching the Mariners to a 7-4 victory Saturday.
It didn’t matter that the Angels turned an apparent Miguel Olivo home run into an eighth-inning double play, or that a late Vernon Wells home run chased Iwakuma.
When the game was young and there to be seized, the Angels dropped, kicked and threw baseballs around the ball park – and it was the Mariners who took full advantage of an eventual four-error game by Los Angeles.
Yes, the same Mariners who’d beaten themselves in their last two games with sloppy play.
“We played a good all-around game, got two-out RBI, played good defense and Iwakuma got us to the eighth inning,” manager Eric Wedge said. “From there, Stephen Pryor and Tom Wilhelmsen did their jobs.
“When we play like that, we can beat anybody.”
Dustin Ackley’s bases-loaded, two-out, two-run single capped a second-inning rally that gave the Mariners a 3-0 lead on Dan Haren, and John Jaso’s solo home run – his seventh – made it 4-0 in the third inning.
Then the Angels fell apart.
Errors by shortstop Eric Aybar, first baseman Albert Pujols and center fielder Mike Trout produced three more runs in the fourth inning, chased Haren and left Seattle with a seven-run lead.
It was those last three Mariners runs that were the difference when the Angels pushed back for four or their own.
Seattle didn’t score after he fourth inning. It didn’t need to.
Iwakuma through six innings had allowed the Angels just four hits and a run.
“I was much more consistent tonight, I kept my pitch count low,” Iwakuma said. “The early runs helped. This is my style in Japan – get a lot of ground balls.”
“He was really, really good,” Wedge said. “He got quick outs, had a great split-fingered fastball and life at the end of his fastball.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Vernon Wells got to him. Iwakuma allowed a single to Aybar, then a home run to Wells and it was 7-3.
In came Pryor, who struck out the first two batters he faced, gave up a single to Torii Hunter and came face-to-face with Albert Pujols, a man he remembered.
“He doubled off me, then said ‘hello’ to me the other day,” Pryor said, shaking his head.
“We got ahead of Albert and Pryor threw a good fastball down low and Albert popped it up,” Olivo said.
In the ninth inning, in came bone-weary closer Wilhelmsen, just back from a crazed 48-hour visit home in which he became a first-time father to a daughter.
“I’m pretty well fried,” he admitted.
The first man he faced, Kendry Morales, homered.
“I was thinking a little about the baby,” Wilhelmsen said, “and then I realized these guys were playing baseball. I settled down quick.”
The win snapped a five-game losing streak, left the Mariners 2-6 on this nine-game trip, and was their 52nd of the season – three more than they had a year ago after 115 games.
More important, Wedge said, was what the team did against Haren, who threw a complete game four-hit shutout against Seattle on May 24.
The difference Saturday?
“We’re a better-hitting ball club than we were then,” Wedge said. “Sometimes we’re a much better hitting club.”
Overall, the Mariners had 10 hits in this one, nine of those singles. They got three walks and were helped by four Angels errors.
For all that, the most memorable play of the night likely was turned in by the phenom Trout. With Eric Thames on first in the eighth inning, Olivo hammered a pitch to center field.
Trout tracked it to the wall, timed his jump and leaped, catching Olivo’s drive three feet above the wall. Thames, running hard, tried to get back to first after getting to second base – and didn’t make it.
Trout not only stole an obvious home run, then threw out Thames after the catch. It was a great individual play. It just couldn’t make up for what bad defense had set in motion.
“I hit the ball well but hit it too high,” Olivo said. “It was still gone. I saw the replay and man, he jumped about four feet in the air. He’s Spiderman! I hear that’s the fourth home run he’s taken away from someone.”