© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
09/13/08 2:30 AM ET
Riggleman praises players in defeat
Manager proud of club; Rowland-Smith turns in strong start
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The Mariners are trying hard to stay away from a 100-loss season, while the AL West champion Angels are trying just as hard to reach 100 wins. Both teams moved closer to that triple-digit number on Friday night. Another quality start from left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith gave the Mariners a chance of beating the Angels, but a 3-and-1 cut fastball from right-handed reliever Miguel Batista got too much of the strike zone and way too much of Mike Napoli's bat, resulting in a walk-off, two-run home run and a 5-3 Seattle loss in front of a sellout crowd of 43,743 at Angel Stadium. The doors leading into the visiting clubhouse remained closed longer than usual following the Mariners' 89th loss of the season. "I wanted to let them know that that's a good ballclub over there, and these ballclubs that are going to the playoffs, we are right there with them, so don't let the standings fool you," manager Jim Riggleman said. "We are playing them tooth-and-nail and at the end of the day, they look over and say, 'That is a heckuva ballclub over there.' "A lot of people are shaking their heads at what our record is and I commended the players on the way they are busting their tails, rounding the bases and playing hard. I'm proud of them and proud to be associated with them." The Mariners (57-89) must win six of their remaining 16 games to dodge the 100-loss mark. The Angels (90-57) need to win 10 of their remaining 15 games to reach the 100-win mark for the first time in franchise history. The 30-plus game difference between the teams is, Riggleman said, deceiving. "If there is someone in the league 30 games better than us, I'll kiss your behind on Main Street and give you half an hour to draw a crowd," he said. "I don't think there is anyone in baseball 30 games better than us." The Mariners took a familiar path to their latest loss -- not taking advantage of some early scoring chances. A single and two one-out doubles in the first inning netted only one run because Ichiro Suzuki, who reached base on a leadoff single, was thrown out at home plate. And in the fifth, three consecutive two-out singles produced two runs and a one-run lead, but one of the hardest-hit balls of the inning -- by second baseman Jose Lopez -- turned into an inning-ending out instead of a run-scoring hit, thanks to a fortuitous reaction by Angels starter Joe Saunders. The Mariners had a runner on first base with two outs when Yuniesky Betancourt, Raul Ibanez and Adrian Beltre all singled. With runners on first and second, Lopez scorched a line drive up the middle. Saunders flinched and somehow got his glove in the path of the ball, and pretty much by accident, snagged it for the third out. The run it would have scored loomed larger two innings later when Rowland-Smith surrendered a leadoff double to Juan Rivera, who eventually scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly. Rowland-Smith didn't want to come out of the game, and Riggleman said he wished he could have kept the lefty in, but decided that right-hander Roy Corcoran facing the right-handed-hitting Napoli was a better matchup. Napoli hit a fly ball to left-center field that was deep enough to score Rivera. Between the fifth and ninth innings, the Mariners got only one runner into scoring position. "We have played so many games like that," Riggleman said. "We didn't break the game open we had a chance, and it came back to haunt us, getting beat on a late home run." The walk-off blast over the left-field fence was the first of its kind for Napoli, but old hat to the Angels. They have now won eight games this season in walk-off fashion. The decisive pitch came with the count 3-and-1. "We knew in that situation we had to go with his best pitch, a cutter, and both had in mind to keep the ball down," catcher Kenji Johjima said. "It was down, but got too much of the plate." Batista retired the first two batters in the ninth, but then walked Robb Quinlan on a full-count pitch. Chone Figgins, who lead the Angels in stolen bases with 31, ran for Quinlan -- and got Batista's attention. Asked afterward if Batista might have been concerned too much about the runner and not enough about the hitter, Riggleman said, "If there was, it was my doing as much as anyone. "Figgins is a guy who puts pressure on you. You don't want him to go to second, and now a single beats you. It's like being between a rock and a hard place. You can't ignore him, but you have to concentrate on the hitter. I'm sure Miguel did have concentration on the hitter." Ichiro's pursuit of 200 hits reached 192 in the first inning, when he hit his 46th infield single of the season, a high chopper that eluded Angels first baseman Mark Teixeira. Second baseman Sean Rodriguez fielded the ball, but had not chance to get Ichiro. The AL West champs didn't get the Mariners speedster at first, but they nailed him at home plate. Ichiro, still on first with one out, tried to score on Ibanez's double off the right-field wall, but was gunned down at home on a close play. Beltre followed with a double to left field, giving Seattle a 1-0 lead, while extending his season-high hitting streak to 15 games.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.