ANAHEIM, Calif. – A tired-looking, banged-up Mariners team had just been blown off the field by a much quicker, more powerful opponent.
The Mariners gave up 21 hits in an 11-3 loss Monday night to the Los Angeles Angels, while mustering little offense of their own. With their season once again teetering on the brink, the team finally appeared, postgame, to make the first of several moves to reinforce a lineup that’s gone about as far as it can.
Alex Liddi was being consoled by teammates in the visiting clubhouse, a likely sign he’s off to Class AAA. In his place, the Mariners will likely activate first baseman Justin Smoak off the disabled list to try to jumpstart an engine that has been missing too many cylinders for a while now.
“We’re hoping we can get Smoak healthy, get (Franklin) Gutierrez healthy, get the guys here healthy,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said, adding that he’d speak with general manager Jack Zduriencik before the night was done to decide whether Smoak would be called back up from Tacoma for Tuesday’s game.
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A crowd of 30,258 at Angel Stadium saw the home team take apart Aaron Harang and the Mariners’ bullpen.
Harang allowed a dozen hits in just five innings, but kept things close with some well-placed strikeouts. A two-run homer by Nick Franklin off Angels starter Jason Vargas in the third cut the deficit to 4-2 and the score was the same when Harang left after five.
It might have even been closer.
First-base umpire John Hirschbeck appeared to incorrectly rule that Michael Morse took his foot off the first-base bag on a throw that arrived ahead of the speedy Peter Bourjos in the second inning. Instead of that being the second out, the Angels had runners at the corners and a Mike Trout sacrifice fly brought a run home.
Josh Hamilton stepped up next and drilled a two-run homer that deflected off the glove of a leaping Michael Saunders in center field for a 4-0 lead.
“Obviously, that play with the throw that pulled Mike off the bag, if that play goes differently and I get the next hitter to fly out, it’s a totally different inning,’’ Harang said. “It’s crazy how one little play like that can change the whole aspect of a game.’’
Speed also was a key factor in a seven-run Angels sixth inning off relievers Carter Capps and Charlie Furbush. Bourjos started it off with an infield single and a stolen base, followed by a walk and a run-scoring double by Albert Pujols that Endy Chavez failed to catch in right-center.
The Angels added four straight hits off Furbush, including two more infield singles, by Erick Aybar and Bourjos. Trout then grounded a ball to second baseman Franklin’s left that he fielded, but made a hurried throw, resulting in a two-run error.
“They always say speed kills,’’ Harang said. ‘Whether it’s causing you to make a play that shouldn’t be made, or try to make a play that’s out of your norm. Running the bases on a base hit, taking an extra bag real easily. They did a hit-and-run in the fifth inning that kept them out of a double play.
“It’s amazing what speed can do if you’re getting on base. And when they’re getting on base, they definitely go out and try to cause havoc.’’
Franklin was getting his first up-close look at the Angels.
“Their speed is definitely a lot different than any team I’ve played so far,’’ he said. “So, it’s just a little different. It’s definitely an advantage towards them, but I think we can defensively maneuver to take that away.’’
Not this time.
The quicker, fresher Angels caught the Mariners out of position time and time again.
The return of Smoak won’t make the Mariners quicker. But it will help rest the ailing Morse and Kendrys Morales from too much field action and boost the offense. Gutierrez and Dustin Ackley should help the speed game once they’re ready to return, but only if they get on base — something the quicker Saunders hasn’t done for six weeks.
Wedge wouldn’t say how close Gutierrez and Ackley are, but agrees getting Smoak back from his oblique injury the next day or two will be important.
“He’s a fantastic first baseman and he was heading in the right direction offensively before he got hurt,’’ Wedge said.
And the Mariners need any help they can get to change the direction their game is once again headed.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.