Batista, Mariners fall in opener
Righty allows six runs in six innings; bats garner seven hits
SEATTLE -- It was blue Monday at Safeco Field, all right.Make that black and blue -- and a dash of red -- as the Mariners dropped a 6-0 decision to the first-place Angels and fall three games behind in the American League West. The Mariners (73-56) did, however, maintain their two-game lead over the Yankees in the Wild Card race, while the Tigers moved within three games. The opener of an important three-game series against the Angels was given a special name -- "Mariners Monday" -- and fans were urged to wear blue. That part of the night went well for the home team as a sellout crowd of 45,998 came through the turnstiles. The 12th full house of the season was treated to a magnificent double play right off the bat when second baseman Jose Lopez and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt showed off their defensive magic to register the first two outs of the game. The noise level increased when right-hander Miguel Batista retired Vladimir Guerrero on a routine fly ball to right field. And that was about it for the highlights. The team was ambushed by a duo of playoff-seasoned Angels -- left fielder Garret Anderson and right-hander John Lackey. Anderson hit a solo home run off and two-run double in his first two-at bats against Batista and Lackey extended his streak of scoreless innings pitched against the Mariners at Safeco Field this season to 24. Seattle went into the game with a .329 team batting average in August, the second-best mark by a Major League team since 1957. The offense was held to seven singles, including two apiece by Jose Vidro and Raul Ibanez, by Lackey. "He has given us fits," manager John McLaren said. "His pitches move in and away and he has some [speed] differential, taking something off his breaking ball. He's a competitor, with that bulldog attitude about him. I have always admired the way he goes about his business." The Mariners, meanwhile, were more bark than bite. The first sign that things were not going to go their way came in the bottom of the first inning when Ichiro Suzuki struck out on a pitch that he foul-tipped and, according to the Mariners and backed by television replays, hit the ground for what should have been ruled a foul ball. But Ichiro was called out by plate umpire Gary Darling and remained in the area to plead his case to the umpire. Asked if he was sure he fouled the ball, and the ball hit the ground, Ichiro said through his interpreter, "I don't lie." McLaren emerged from the dugout -- the first time -- and asked Darling to check with third-base umpire Jerry Meals, who might have had a better view of the play. "He said it was not necessary," McLaren said. On the way back to the dugout, McLaren said he asked Ichiro if he was sure the ball hit the ground and was told that it did. Upon reaching the dugout, "Guys were screaming that they had seen the replay and the ball hit the ground," McLaren said. "I turned around, threw my hands up. Meals turned around, threw his hands up and I was ejected immediately. That's all I have to say about it. That's exactly what happened and it was unfortunate." McLaren and Meals had a heated in-your-face, nose-to-nose exchange for several minutes. A pool reporter questioned Darling -- the crew chief -- about the play and the veteran arbiter said he signaled that the ball had been foul-tipped. Asked how Meals got involved, Darling snapped, "Go ask McLaren." The Mariners had more trouble with Lackey and Anderson than the umpires. Only two Seattle baserunners advanced beyond first base and both of them were in scoring position in the third inning. Lopez started the inning with a single into left-center and after Betancourt struck out, Ichiro singled to center, sending Lopez to third with the tying run. Vidro hit a one-hopper to first baseman Kendry Morales, who came home with the throw and Lopez was retired in a rundown. However, Ichiro reached third and Vidro scampered into second. The scoring threat ended when former Angels outfielder Jose Guillen popped out to shortstop and the 3-0 lead was never in jeopardy again. Lackey struck out five, walked none and improved to 16-8 -- including an 8-1 record against AL West teams. "He had his 'A' game out there tonight," Vidro said. "He really didn't give us much and you have to give him a lot of credit. He did his job. "When he needed to make a big out, he did. We had a chance to get right back in the game [in the third inning], but didn't do the job and score any runs. After that, it was all Lackey." The Mariners needed an identical outing from Batista, who collaborated on a 2-0 shutout victory over the Angels the last time he faced them in Seattle. He surrendered just four hits over seven innings in the July 30 game. Anderson was an early one-man show. "Miggy had little problem locating," McLaren said, "and Garret got a couple of big hits off him. [Anderson] has been a quality hitter in this league for a long time." Batista surrendered 10 hits over six innings and lost his second consecutive start to fall to 13-10 this season. The Mariners lost their third straight after reaching the 20-wins-over-.500 mark in Texas. McLaren said he talked to pitching coach Rafael Chaves after the game and decided that Batista, "Might be throwing his cutter too hard and that is affecting his location a little bit. They'll work on it between starts." The series continues Tuesday night and although this isn't a must-win series for the Mariners, or even a must-win game, when right-hander Jeff Weaver takes the mound in the second game, Seattle must put on a better show than the one it did in the opener. "The crowd was great, which we expected, and hopefully it will be like that the whole series," Vidro said. "Hopefully, we will give them a better show [on Tuesday]."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.