Abraham Almonte grimaced in front of his locker. He wasn’t in physical pain, but the facial expression came naturally when Almonte was asked about the Mariners’ night at the plate.
Almonte delivered a broken-bat single in the third inning, which proved noteworthy for this reason: It was Seattle’s first and last hit in a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in front of 16,437 fans Wednesday at Safeco Field.
The loss snapped Seattle’s four-game winning streak against the Angels this season.
“Kind of a tough game,” Almonte said.
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Almonte’s single prevented a no-hitter, but the Mariners (5-3) didn’t do much beyond that. The Mariners had more than one base runner in only two innings and struck out nine times.
Still, manager Lloyd McClendon said he didn’t mind his team’s at-bats against hard-throwing Angels starter Garrett Richards (2-0, 0.75 ERA).
“I thought our energy level was great,” McClendon said. “We went up there with a purpose. We had what I thought were very good at-bats. They weren’t very successful, but they were good at-bats where we really tried to get him deep into the count. He was a little better than we were tonight. Those things happen over the course of a 162-game schedule.”
McClendon expanded on what he meant by good at-bats that weren’t successful: “I think we had some high pitch count at-bats where we were really making it tough to get outs. One of the things we knew we had to do against this guy was not make easy outs. … Even when we make outs, make them tough outs. I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
The Angels allowed more Mariners to reach base on errors (two) than Seattle had hits (one). The Mariners’ best chance came in the third inning, right after Albert Pujols’ two-run homer put the Angels in front.
Almonte singled and Brad Miller reached when Angels shortstop John McDonald committed an error on a would-be double play. The Mariners couldn’t capitalize as Robinson Cano and Justin Smoak — their hottest hitters this season — grounded out and struck out, respectively.
It was the only inning in which the Mariners had a base runner advance beyond second.
In the sixth and seventh innings, the Mariners’ leadoff hitter reached base only to never advance beyond first.
Richards lasted seven innings, gave up only one hit, with three walks and six strikeouts. He drew high praise from the Seattle clubhouse, and Almonte said Richards got better as the game went on.
“You have to give it to the guy,” said Cano, who went 0 for 4 and is now hitless in seven at-bats at Safeco Field. “He pitched outstanding.”
The lack of offensive production spoiled a solid, if not completely efficient, outing from rookie starter Roenis Elias. Making his second career start, Elias was far from perfect, and he struggled with control. But he was able to maneuver his way through most jams and limited the damage.
The glaring exception came in the third inning. After Elias plunked the inning’s leadoff hitter, Pujols smashed a two-run homer to left field that put the Angels up 2-0.
Elias said through a translator that he learned he must keep the ball down in the major leagues because if he doesn’t, “the hitters aren’t forgiving.” Elias gave up four hits, two runs and struck out two in five innings. He threw 91 pitches, including 54 for strikes.
In his two outings this season, Elias has pitched 10 innings and has allowed three runs.
“I thought he threw the ball a lot better,” McClendon said.
The Mariners offense just didn’t offer any help.