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04/21/07 2:30 AM ET
Mariners fall short against Angels
Slow start proves costly in first game of vital road trip
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- A start like their finish on Friday night might have been enough for the Mariners to begin a seven-game road trip through the American League West on a positive note. But the opener of a three-game series against the Angels lacked consistency and sent Seattle to its fourth straight loss. Right-hander Miguel Batista had difficulty recording the third out in the first and third innings, leading to an eight-run deficit that not even some eighth- and ninth-inning offensive splurges could surmount in an 8-4 setback before 43,359 at Angel Stadium. The Mariners rallied for two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth before Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez came in to record the final two outs and secure the outcome, which ended a six-game skid. "We didn't pitch well enough to win tonight, we really didn't," manager Mike Hargrove said. "Plain and simple, we didn't pitch well enough." Six of the 10 hits Batista (1-2) allowed went for extra bases, including leadoff home runs by Vladimir Guerrero in the fifth inning and Mike Napoli in the sixth. But Batista insisted that both pitches were exactly where he wanted them. Guerrero reached out and drove the ball into the right-center-field seats for the second of his three hits off Batista, prompting the pitcher to shake his head and say, "He is one strong guy to do that." Batista also said the same pitch in the same place to Napoli earlier in the game became an out. What a difference six days can mean. The way Batista pitched in his previous outing, when he defeated the Rangers at Safeco Field last week, suggested that the veteran has what it takes to reel off some impressive outings. Especially without ace right-hander Felix Hernandez available to end losing streaks -- the Mariners need the remainder of the rotation to step up and carry the load. But this Batista was more like that one that was hit hard by the Athletics in his first start of the regular season. "The [difference] was command of his pitches, probably," Hargrove said. "He was up with a lot of his pitches and some of those got hit hard. That's the biggest difference in this outing and his last one. His velocity was the same, but his command was not the same." While the Angels thrived on two-out rallies against Batista -- scoring two runs in the first inning after the first two batters were retired, and two more in the third, when two of the first three batters made outs -- the Mariners longed for a key hit. The Mariners had at least one hit in each of the six innings Angels starter Joe Saunders pitched, but they were unable to score against the southpaw from Virginia Tech, who wore his alma mater's cap during the ballgame. They loaded the bases in the fourth on two walks and infield single by Jose Guillen, but Saunders retired Kenji Johjima on a fly ball to deep right-center. Asked what made Saunders so tough, Hargrove said, "We hit a lot of balls right at people and couldn't get the big hit. But what made Saunders so tough is they scored eight runs for him." "Everything they hit was falling in," first baseman Richie Sexson said. "We just didn't get a whole lot of luck, and they did." The Mariners finished with 13 hits -- just one fewer than the Angels -- but none of the first seven were back-to-back. Los Angeles, on the other hand, had three consecutive hits in the first and third innings against Batista and three more in a row against right-handed reliever Brandon Morrow during a two-run seventh inning. Seattle hit into a pair of line-drive double plays that took it out of potential scoring threats. Sexson scorched a drive to first baseman Casey Kotchman in the second inning. Raul Ibanez, aboard on a leadoff single, had no chance to get back to the base. "How often do you see the first baseman playing Richie that close to the line?" Hargrove asked. And in the third inning, Yuniesky Betancourt led off with a double but was doubled off second after Kotchman snared Jose Lopez's liner and turned it into a double play with a close play at second. It was that kind of a night for Seattle. Left-hander Horacio Ramirez, another newcomer to the rotation this season, gets the chance Saturday night to end the four-game skid. "I don't think it's fair to put too much pressure on anyone, whether it's a pitcher or a hitter," he said, "I definitely want to help us start winning as soon as possible. "We haven't been playing that poorly, but just haven't caught many breaks," he added. "But sooner or later, things will turn around."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.