ANAHEIM, Calif. – Regardless of their record, which will end with more losses than wins for the seventh consecutive season, and being out of postseason contention since late June, the Los Angeles Angels are still capable of beating any team in baseball because of the power production by two hitters in their lineup.
On Sunday, the Mariners were reminded of just how much damage Luis Rengifo and Livan Soto can do in a 5-1 loss.
OK, so on most days, the two hitters that can carry the Angels’ offense to victory are former MVP winners Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
But on Sunday, it was a one-time Mariners minor leaguer and a rookie making his first start at shortstop after making his MLB debut as a pinch runner on Saturday night that sent Seattle to a third straight loss.
Rengifo smashed home runs in his first two at-bats – a leadoff homer in the bottom of the first and a two-run homer in the third – off Mariners starter Marco Gonzales to give the Angels an early lead. Soto notched his first MLB hit in the third inning and was on base for Rengifo’s second homer and ended Gonzales outing in frustration while dampening the Mariners’ comeback hopes with a two-run homer in the seventh inning.
As for those other guys, Trout and Ohtani, they were a combined 1 for 6 with two walks and a strikeout on the day.
Sarcasm aside, the Mariners have gotten off to an abysmal start to their final record trip of the regular season, losing the first three games to fall to 80-65.
“We are in a little bit of a (expletive) storm right now, so to speak,” manager Scott Servais said. “We just haven’t played that well, like we’re capable of and part of it has been they’ve shut us down offensively. We need to get it going. That’s just where we’re at.”
With the Orioles (76-69) rallying to beat the Blue Jays (83-64) and closer Jordan Romano, 5-4, and the Rays (82-64) defeating the Rangers, 5-3, the shifting in the wild card race continues to shift.
Toronto, which has Monday off followed by two-game series in Philadelphia, remains a half game up on the Rays for the top wild card spot. The Mariners remain in the third spot, falling 1.5 games behind Tampa, while the Orioles moved within four games of the final wild card spot. The Rays open a three-game series vs. the Astros at home while Baltimore hosts the Tigers for a three-game series on Monday.
Seattle will wrap up the season series with the Angels and try avoid being swept in the four-game series on Monday afternoon.
There is no panic or thoughts of delivering speeches.
“We play a lot of games,” Servais said. “You’re gonna have streaks where you struggle offensively for a couple of days. We’ll be just fine. We’ve got a couple players out right now. We’ll get Julio (Rodriguez) back here soon. We’ll be fine. You just gotta keep grinding through.”
The Mariners were behind two pitches into Gonzales’ outing after Rengifo yanked a cutter over the wall in left field for a solo homer.
“When you’re hot, you’re hot,” Gonzales said. “I made a mistake and didn’t get it in enough.”
The Mariners answered with their only run in the second inning. Dylan Moore doubled with two outs off Angels starter Reid Detmers and scored on Adam Frazier’s bloop single.
Rengifo’s homer in the third inning seemed somewhat preposterous and a testament to his physical strength. Gonzales threw a changeup purposely below the strikzone. Rengifo, who has biceps like a body builder, made a lunging swing on the pitch and muscled it more than 400 feet over the wall in left-center for a 3-1 lead.
“Somehow he hit that changeup out,” Gonzales said. “I looked at Curt (Casali) right away and he said it was down. We were both kind of just mind blown. I was looking at their dugout to try and find him and make eye contact with him and tip my cap. .
I looked at Kurt right away and he was like I was down. I don’t know, we were both kind of just mind blown. So I mean, I wanted to I was looking at their dugout I tried to find him like make eye contact with Rengifo and tip my cap. That was impressive for sure.”
Rengifo hit a pair of homers in Friday’s win and his two homers on Sunday give him seven against the Mariners this season.
After allowing leadoff single to well-traveled first baseman Mike Ford, who was a member of the Mariners this season, Gonzales gave up a one-out home run to shortstop Livan Soto, who was playing in his second MLB game.
Soto turned a first-pitch fastball that was inside and off the plate and managed to keep it fair. The fly ball landed just over the wall in left field to make it 5-1 and force Gonzales out of the game.
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