In 2004, the Mariners were bad, and they went 7-13 in the season series against the Angels.
In 2005, the Mariners were bad, and they split the season series with the Angels, 9-9.
In 2006, the Mariners were bad, and they went 9-10 in the season series against the Angels.
In 2007, the Mariners were all right, and they went 6-13 in the season series against the Angels.
In 2008, the Mariners were bad, and they went 5-14 in the season series against the Angels.
In 2009, the Mariners were all right, and they went 9-10 in the season series against the Angels.
In 2010, the Mariners were bad, and they went 4-15 in the season series against the Angels.
And so far in 2011, the Mariners have been all right, and they've gone 3-4 in the season series against the Angels.
I bought MLB.tv in 2004. Since then, I've lived in San Diego, Hartford, and Portland, but no matter where I've been or what I've been doing, I've managed to watch the overwhelming majority of Mariners games. I'd estimate that, over that span, I've watched about 90% of them. Also over that span, the Mariners have been more bad than good, amassing a combined record of 548-675. But if there's one team against which I've seen them struggle the most, it's the Angels.
Dating back to 2004, the Mariners have gone 52-88 against the Angels. They have a 37% winning percentage against the Angels, and a 46% winning percentage against everybody else. Of the 14 teams the Mariners have played more than 20 times since 2004, they've been the least successful against the Angels, and - surprise! - the most successful against the Padres. So it isn't a southern California thing. It's an Angels thing. For as long as I've been able to watch the Mariners regularly, the Angels have had their number.
So games like this just don't come as a surprise anymore. I expect them. I expect things to go wrong when the Mariners play the Angels. I remember being there when the Angels beat J.J. Putz, handing the M's their 11th consecutive loss. I remember Torii Hunter taking a homer away from Richie Sexson. I remember every detail there is to be remembered about Lollablueza, including the second game, in which the M's chased Ervin Santana and blew a 5-0 lead. I don't know if I expected these games back when those games happened. But I know I expect them now. So tonight was a gut punch that just didn't feel like a gut punch. David Pauley threw it, Mark Trumbo hit it, and the TV was off before the ball ever landed. I can only assume based on the extrapolated trajectory that it landed on the moon.
The Mariners had their opportunities. Oh, did they have their opportunities. They stranded a runner on third in the third. They stranded a runner on second in the fourth. They stranded a runner on second in the fifth. They had runners on in the seventh and the eighth. Twice, they had the lead, and they handed one of them to the bullpen. But they never pulled away and the Angels struck quick, and when the game went into the bottom of the eighth even 3-3, it felt pretty obvious how it was going to end. Maybe not right down to the exact detail, but it felt evident that the Angels were going to win, and the Mariners were going to lose. It was only a matter of timing.
I was shocked the Angels didn't pull it off right there. They had the bases loaded and one out against David Pauley. Everything was set up. But Pauley got out of it thanks to some grounders and fancy defense, and somehow the Mariners survived. Yet it only lasted a few minutes. Mike Trout closed the top of the ninth with a fine running catch, sending us into a break, and on the other end of the break, Trumbo deposited a Pauley sinker somewhere in Chino. The Angels won a game that never felt safe, and the M's fell ever further back, their chances eroding to sand.
The bright side is that, even if you think the M's are basically toast, they kept us interested in the day-to-day almost all the way up to the All-Star break. That's more than some people expected, and with two more against the Angels and then four against the Rangers, it's not like they don't still have a prayer of pulling themselves back up. This season has already provided more than it could've. Additionally, losing another tough one to the Angels further cements them as a villain, and existence is better with villains. The seething, simmering hate adds to the experience.
But, man, this is annoying.
A brief selection of Friday night bullet holes:
Blake Beavan turned in one of those starts where at no point are you impressed, but then he comes out and you look up and find that it's the seventh inning and he's only allowed a few runs, which means he's well on his way to arriving as Doug Fister v1.0. He threw a lot of strikes without spotting the ball especially well, and he hung a fair number of his offspeed pitches, but then he only got burned by two solo home runs - one coming from a guy you don't expect to go deep, and one coming on an 0-2 breaking ball out of the zone that Vernon Wells golfed. Beavan passed this test, and so far he's made sure the team hasn't missed Erik Bedard.
- The Angels scored all four of their runs on solo homers. The Mariners scored twice on sac flies and once on a groundout. We all bitch and complain about Carlos Peguero playing so often, and we have every right to do that, but you can kind of understand where the Mariners are coming from, because God damn are home runs ever handy. One swing! You can literally add to the scoreboard with one swing! With home runs, scoring doesn't have to be so difficult!
- Speaking of Peguero, I think it's worth considering a guy like Trumbo as his upside. Obviously, Trumbo is a right-handed first baseman while Peguero is a left-handed corner outfielder, and Trumbo is a lot more polished. But Trumbo swings at a lot of balls and strikes alike, and when he hits the ball, he punishes it. He's already hit six home runs this year further than 420 feet, he's hit one at 472, and he's slugging .464 in a big ballpark. His OBP sucks, but he hits for enough power to stick. Mark Trumbo is a Carlos Peguero who hits strikes.
- I am not alarmed when the images from Angel Stadium are smoky during the at bat after an Angels home run, because I know that after Angels home runs, they set off a bunch of fireworks in the outfield. But what if I didn't know that? What if I were just casually watching the game, or flipping through channels, and I saw that the entire playing field was covered in smoke?
Me: /sees smoke
Pitcher: /looks in
Me: Hold on a second
Pitcher: /looks in
Me: That's smoke.
Pitcher: /looks in, shakes head
Me: That's smoke!
Pitcher: /steps off
Me: What's going on!
Catcher: /approaches mound
Me: Everybody get off the field!
Pitcher: /covers mouth with glove
Me: Everybody get off the field!
Me: Something is on fire!
Second baseman: /draws in dirt with shoe
Me: Why doesn't anybody realize there is an enormous fire!
Scott Downs vs. Dustin Ackley in the top of the eighth. I think that Downs and Hank Conger had a plan.
- About the final pitch of the game, David Pauley says he "knew as soon as [he] threw it," and as Trumbo swung, Pauley finished his delivery and began walking off the field without turning back. I wonder how many pitchers have faced the Mariners and felt that same sinking feeling after releasing a pitch, only to realize, all right, Mariners.
- Franklin Gutierrez absolutely stung a ball into right-center that Mike Trout ran down on the track to end the top of the ninth, but while I'm sure that catch was impressive, I'm used to seeing the Mariners have Franklin Gutierrez and the Angels have Peter Bourjos, so it didn't really seem like anything special at the time. It's written into each player's contract that Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos aren't allowed to challenge each other to races in California during brushfire season.
Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez will each get the ball this weekend, in that order. Winning twice would be neat. It's easy to get wins, right? The Mariners should get more wins.