SEATTLE – If the All-Star break started today, Seattle Mariners would be deeply thankful.
Their tired bullpen in dire need of a break and the rest of their game suddenly due for a cleansing breath – if not a hug – the Fourth of July was far from a joyful holiday for the Mariners.
The Los Angeles Angels scored seven runs in the sixth inning and pummeled the Mariners’ heavily used bullpen the rest of the way in a 14-6 victory over the M’s Tuesday at Safeco Field.
After the Mariners’ third straight loss, fuses were a bit short.
Starting pitcher Gil Meche was miffed at being pulled three batters into the sixth inning as the Mariners led 5-3. Designated hitter Carl Everett not only stewed at an unknown issue, he boiled over in a loud tirade in manager Mike Hargrove’s office after the game.
Everett lost it for the first times this season – at least within earshot of those who could hear his rant behind Hargrove’s closed door – although the precise reason wasn’t known.
The past few days have brought change in Everett’s workload after the Mariners obtained Eduardo Perez in a trade Friday. Perez will start at DH against left-handed pitching and Tuesday he appeared for the first time as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, replacing Everett with the score 14-6.
Meche had a 5-1 lead after four innings, courtesy the Mariners’ five-run fourth when they broke through with four straight hits and a walk against Angels starter Ervin Santana. Raul Ibanez hit a three-run homer, his 19th this season, and Richie Sexson followed with his 16th homer on the next pitch.
Juan Rivera homered off Meche in the fifth, making the score 5-2, and the Angels managed a walk and two hits to start the sixth, Orlando Cabrera’s RBI single to left got the Angels to within 5-3.
Hargrove decided Meche was finished and put the game into the hands of the bullpen, which still wasn’t back to full strength after a series of difficult recent games.
“Gil still felt strong, but he was coming up in the zone and it’s hard for anybody to be successful when you pitch up in the zone,” Hargrove said.
Hargrove brought in Julio Mateo and Meche walked away steamed after throwing 87 pitches.
“I wasn’t happy with it, but I don’t make the calls around here,” Meche said. “With a 5-1 spot in the fourth inning, my job is to go out there and get us as deep as I can. Coming out in the fifth inning, I don’t care what happens, you’re not going to be pleased. Any starter in this league will tell you they want to stay on the mound in that situation. I’m not the only one.”
The Angels pounded Mateo for four hits and four runs, plus two intentional walks, and scored seven times before Cabrera popped up for the third out.
“We felt real good when we went up on them 5-1,” Hargrove said. “Over the course of the last month, we’ve been winning games like that. Today we didn’t. We plain and simple got kicked. It turned out to be one of those days. It’s terribly disappointing to everybody.”
No reliever went unscathed. Jake Woods gave up two runs in two innings and Rafael Soriano, whose sore shoulder caused him to miss five games, returned in the ninth inning and gave up three hits and three runs.
“You can’t be just golden all the time,” Hargrove said. “It’s surprising because they had done such a good job.”
The relievers have been the Mariners’ strength all season, but in the past five games they’ve been a weary bunch. Part of the issue has been injuries. Soriano was out a few days with what the team called a “tired” shoulder, and Sean Green suffered back spasms so severe on Sunday that he wound up on the disabled list and in the hospital.
The recent nine-game interleague trip didn’t help, either.
With pitchers hitting and Hargrove using the bullpen more often than if he’d had a DH to work with, the load may finally have caught up with the relievers. The relievers have worked 41 innings in the past 14 games going back to their first interleague road game June 20 at Los Angeles.
The Mariners used three relievers in four of the games, four relievers once and, perhaps the capper, needed five last Tuesday at Arizona to hold onto an 11-7 victory.
“We had to use them more when the pitcher’s spot (in the batting order) came up. Because of that, we did use them a little more often,” pitching coach Rafael Chaves said. “We’re tired, but there’s no excuses. I know they went out and did their best today and their best wasn’t good enough. We didn’t execute. We must execute, bottom line.”
Hargrove said the worn-down bullpen is a typical product of a long season.
“Having tired people in the bullpen happens anywhere. It ebbs and flows,” he said. “We’ll battle through it. It’ll turn around.”