September 5, 2011 in Sports

Angels take advantage of sloppy Mariners

Geoff Baker Seattle Times

ANAHEIM, Calif. – This was part of that learning curve the Mariners knew they were going to have to suffer through.

A team breaking in so many young players is going to have nights like this 7-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, where the new center fielder gives away three runs by not catching the ball. Or where the rookie third baseman yields one or two more by failing to decide in time whether to charge in or play back on a hard-hit grounder.

It doesn’t make it any easier to go through, especially with players both young and old on this squad looking like they peaked as a group back in mid-August. And with more than three weeks still to play after this fifth consecutive loss, the Mariners will have to hope that mistakes can be learned from quickly and not repeated.

“It was sloppy,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We were just sloppy all day.”

The Mariners committed five errors in front of 35,497 at Angel Stadium, helping torpedo any chance for starting pitcher Anthony Vasquez, who looked better in his third major league outing but didn’t have much of a line to show for it. Vasquez made it through 52/3 innings, yielding seven runs – six earned – on six hits, including two home runs, while playing about a 30-minute drive from where he enjoyed a collegiate career at USC.

But one of the home runs would never have happened had center fielder Trayvon Robinson caught a two-out blast to the wall by Torii Hunter with a runner aboard. Instead, Robinson, who exactly one month earlier had robbed Hunter of a home run in the Mariners’ major league debut, got too close to the wall and couldn’t fully extend for what became a run-scoring triple.

Moments later, Mark Trumbo hit a two-run homer and a 1-0 lead quickly became 3-1. Vasquez and the M’s never recovered.

“I didn’t think I was that far on the wall,” Robinson said. “I couldn’t extend my arm to catch it. It just went over the top of my glove, to the top of the wall. I was more shocked, because I didn’t know how close I was to the wall.”

Robinson was upset with himself, but tried to shut it out. He doubled in his next at-bat and had a single against Angels starter Dan Haren.

In fact, the Mariners took some pretty good rips all night on Haren, chasing him after six innings but never quite finishing him off when they had the chance. Brendan Ryan hit a solo homer in the fifth to make it 6-3, and the Mariners were actually outhitting the Angels 9-4.

But the errors and missed opportunities proved Seattle’s undoing.

It was 3-2 in the third with two on when Howie Kendrick hit a potential double-play ball that Kyle Seager whiffed on for a run-scoring error that moved the lead runner to third. That runner scored moments later on a sacrifice fly by Hunter. Then Ichiro misjudged Trumbo’s fly ball that fell in for a double.

Ichiro then rushed a throw back in that missed the cutoff man as another run scored to make it 6-2. Vernon Wells closed out the scoring in the sixth with a solo homer off Vasquez.

“I should have been charging hard or taking a drop-step back and planting my feet,” Seager said. “I got in a bad position. That’s a play I should make.”

Seager also managed one of the 10 hits the Mariners had off Haren, who dominated them for most of eight innings in Seattle last week. The improved offense and an overall better performance by Vasquez were silver linings the Mariners could grasp at on a night they guaranteed themselves a second consecutive losing season.

“Once I kind of settled in, I was as comfortable as I’ve felt since I’ve been here,” said Vasquez, who retired eight of nine before the Wells homer and needed just eight pitches to get out of the fifth inning. “It kind of goes back to the confidence and approach that I had in the minor leagues. That was great to just have some success under my belt those few innings.”

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