By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
ANAHEIM, Calif. — 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 just a brief two-game series against the American League West-rival Angels, but it felt so much longer.
For the second consecutive 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. The good feelings from taking the New York Yankees’ series to start this road trip and the optimism from playing Cleveland tough despite being swept in four games have disappeared quicker than the sunshine in the Puget Sound. Two beatdowns by the Los Angeles Angels will do that.
The Angels outscored Seattle 19-1 in the two contests, and no facet of the Mariners’ game — pitching, hitting or fielding — was competent. The Mariners would have been shut out in the series if Michael Saunders’ groundball to first base in the eighth inning hadn’t scored Brendan Ryan from third. The run snapped Seattle’s 16-inning scoreless streak.
After the game, Seattle’s veterans called a players’ only meeting 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.
What was said in the meeting wasn’t shared with the media.
“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. (How they played against the Angels) 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.”
The players came out of the meeting determined to get back on track.
“We are going to play the brand of baseball we want to play from Friday on out,” Ryan said. “This was a little discouraging.”
That brand of baseball has to begin with better starting pitching performances than the Mariners got in the two losses to the Angels. A day after Aaron Harang went just 32⁄3 innings and gave up seven runs, rookie right-hander Brandon Maurer managed just three innings. Maurer allowed 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 on hand for an outing that fell apart from the start. He struggled 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 could have fielded Albert Pujols’ bloop single. The ball landed between them. Ryan couldn’t make a tough play in the hole on Mark Trumbo’s groundball that could have resulted in a force play at third. Ackley bobbled a sure double-play ball only getting one out.
Those events helped a bad situation snowball.
“I’d say a little bit, but they still hit my mistakes and took advantage of it,” Maurer said.
Maurer limited the damage to a run in the second inning, getting out of a bases-loaded jam when Howie Kendrick grounded into a double play. Pitching coach Carl Willis met with Maurer on the mound before Kendrick stepped to the plate.
“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 pitched just one more inning, giving up in another run. Despite seeming to right himself a little, he had thrown 74 pitches in the three innings.
“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 lineup 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.