SEATTLE – Another wasted opportunity was looming for the Mariners and starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn by the time the fifth inning rolled around.
Washburn has been victimized by a lack of run support all season, yet his team had already scored four as the fateful fifth opened. But once again, as it has all season for Washburn, the fifth would prove his undoing in what became a 10-6 loss on Monday night to the visiting Los Angeles Angels.
The Angels scored five times in that frame, erasing a three-run lead for Washburn and propelling the visitors to victory on a night when ace starter John Lackey proved somewhat less than effective. Lackey was making his first real start of the season, his prior attempt on Saturday wiped out after he was ejected just two pitches into the game.
For the first few weeks of the season, the Mariners had taken advantage of a depleted Angels squad missing an injured Lackey, Ervin Santana, Vladimir Guerrero and a host of other stars.
But now that Lackey and Santana are back, with others soon on their way, any hope of an early edge has been squandered by Seattle’s prolonged slump of the past two weeks.
The Mariners lost for the 11th time in 14 games, falling six back of the division-leading Texas Rangers and now two behind an Angels squad on the verge of being left in their dust on a couple of occasions last month. A crowd of only 17,340 at Safeco Field also watched the Mariners waste a golden opportunity to pounce on Lackey when he was something far lesser than his best.
Washburn has been burned in the fifth inning before.
He entered the game with opponents sporting an on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.027 off him in the fifth inning, the highest of any frame he’s pitched. Washburn was cruising with a 4-1 lead, courtesy of the 10th homer of the season by Russell Branyan in the fourth, along with a three-base throwing error by catcher Mike Napoli in the second that cost his team two runs.
But Washburn failed to get a called third strike on Juan Rivera with one out in the fifth, then saw a full-count offering go over the left field wall for a home run.
Kendry Morales, who would hit a pair of key home runs later in the game, promptly singled, followed by a Howie Kendrick double and a two-out infield hit by Erick Aybar to bring another run home. Washburn then walked Bobby Abreu to load the bases before Torii Hunter cleared them with a triple to right center past a lunging Ichiro.
Washburn would go on to finish the inning, then watched Brandon Morrow come on to work the sixth. It was Morrow’s first outing since blowing consecutive saves in Texas and he picked up where he’d left off by yielding a two-run homer to Morales that made it an 8-5 game.
After the Mariners narrowed the gap to two runs in the sixth, Morales went deep again off reliever Denny Stark in the eighth to restore the three-run gap.
Washburn has started to cool off, as have the Mariners, after soaring through the month of April. He’d allowed only 12 earned runs his first six outings – six of those coming in a single contest – but has since given up 10 runs in his past two contests.
The interesting part is that a pitcher who’d received two runs or fewer of support per outing in half of his starts since the beginning of 2005 has seen his offense come through the past couple of times out. Seattle scored five runs for Washburn last week for an early lead.
And then, this time around, he was up 3-0 after two and 4-1 after four on Lackey. But then the fifth rolled around and Washburn and the Mariners again failed to seize the moment.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre didn’t start Monday for the first time this season, and there was no better time for a break. Beltre was hitless in 11 at-bats in the first three games of the homestand to drop his average to .211. He was such a mess at the plate, he struck out swinging twice Sunday on balls well out of the strike zone.
The worse things have gotten for Beltre lately, the harder he seemed to swing. The Mariners want Beltre to avoid trying to use every muscle in his body to swing, and it hasn’t been an easy adjustment.
“No one cares about this club or works harder than him and the last couple of days I think it is evident by the way he’s going about his at-bats,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “He can be so active with his body that he falls across the plate.”
Ronny Cedeno started at third base Monday and Wladimir Balentien moved up to fourth in the Mariners’ lineup. Wakamatsu wouldn’t say if Beltre would bat fourth when he returns to the lineup tonight.
Angels 10, Mariners 6
|a-Matthews Jr. ph-dh||3||1||0||0||0||1||.272|
|Griffey Jr. dh||4||0||2||1||0||0||.219|
E—Napoli (2), Y.Betancourt (7). LOB—Los Angeles 9, Seattle 5. 2B—Figgins (5), Hunter (9), Napoli (8), Kendrick (6), Balentien (8), Branyan (11). HR—J.Rivera (2), off Washburn; K.Morales (7), off Morrow; K.Morales (8), off Stark; Branyan (10), off Lackey. RBIs—Figgins (9), E.Aybar (10), Hunter 3 (30), J.Rivera (12), K.Morales 3 (26), Kendrick (18), Griffey Jr. (8), Balentien (6), Branyan (20), F.Gutierrez (17), Cedeno (3). SB—E.Aybar (1), Abreu (14), Hunter (6). CS—Figgins (3). S—Y.Betancourt, Cedeno. SF—Balentien, F.Gutierrez. RLSIP—Los Angeles 7 (E.Aybar, Napoli, J.Rivera 2, Hunter 2, Figgins); Seattle 1 (F.Gutierrez). RMU—Kendrick, Jo.Lopez, Johjima. DP—Los Angeles 1 (Abreu, Abreu, Napoli).
|Lackey W, 1-0||5||7||5||4||0||3||82||9.00|
|Oliver H, 2||2||1||1||1||0||0||26||1.47|
|Arredondo H, 11||1||1||0||0||1||0||22||5.19|
|Washburn L, 3-3||5||7||6||6||2||4||94||3.86|
T—3:04. A—17,340 (47,878).