In the battle to stay out of the basement of the American League West, the Mariners can’t seem to find a way to beat the one divisional team that has a worse record than them — for now.
After being on the receiving end Saturday night of a 16-3 pasting by the Angels, which featured 14 hits and 10 walks issued by the Mariners’ pitchers and infielder Tim Lopes pitching the eighth inning, the Mariners are inching closer to last place in the division. With the defeat, the Mariners fell to 13-22 while the Angels improved to 12-22. The postseason celebratory Champagne supplies for both teams will age for another year. Seattle’s is now of vintage age.
“We knew we’re going to have some nights like this year,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said in a postgame video conference. “It’s just disappointing because we’ve been playing really good baseball. We haven’t had one of these games in a while. Not much you can do about this one, you’ve got to learn from it. You go take a shower you come back tomorrow for the day game and get after it again.”
In this shortened 60-game season, the two teams will play just 10 times instead of the traditional 19 times. The Angels lead the series 5-3 with two games left.
Of course, the Mariners were not supposed to be good in what was supposed to be a developmental season, while the Angels had hoped to compete for a spot in the expanded postseason.
After pitching well in his previous three outings, Seattle rookie Justus Sheffield couldn’t continue that trend against the Angels. The young left-hander lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on four hits with four walks and six strikeouts to fall to 2-3.
“Obviously, Justus Sheffield’s been on a great run for us, and he’s disappointed with the outing and the results he got tonight,” Servais said. “I’m going to go back to what I’ve talked about when we’re going well. Tonight, we didn’t execute in those 0-0 and 1-0. And that’s kind of been our benchmark and it’ll always be our benchmark.”
Sheffield lacked the pinpoint command with his two-seam fastball and couldn’t consistently get ahead enough to use his slider to put hitters away. After getting the first strike on 73% of the hitters he faced in those past three outings, Sheffield generated just nine first-pitch strikes on the 22 batters he faced.
“My arm felt really good tonight and I think that got into my head a little bit,” Sheffield said in a postgame video conference. “I think I was out there over-throwing and opening up. I wasn’t able to drive the ball in there the way I wanted to and that hurt me.”
A two-out infield single from Mike Trout and a double from Anthony Rendon in the first inning led to the Angels’ first run.
The Mariners answered with a run in the top of the second. Jose Marmolejos doubled over the head of Trout off Angels starter Dylan Bundy and Lopes followed with a double.
But Angels retook the lead in the bottom of the second and continued to add to it.
Rookie Jo Adell crushed his first MLB homer — a two-run blast into the left-field seats that made it 3-1. It was the first homer Sheffield had allowed this season, ending a streak of 116 batters faced without allowing a homer — the fourth longest active streak in MLB.
“I pulled a change-up over the middle of the plate,” Sheffield said. “Bad location.”
After that homer, Sheffield regrouped and retired the next 10 batters he faced. But the outing fell apart in an interminable fifth inning that he couldn’t finish.
Sheffield was able to get two outs in the inning, but walked Trout and Anthony Rendon to load the bases. With Sheffield’s pitch count at 98 and showing obvious fatigue, and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols coming to the plate, Servais went to rookie right-hander Joey Gerber. But Pujols singled up the middle on a 2-1 fastball to score two runs charged to Sheffield.
“I felt good after that second inning,” Sheffield said. “I got on a roll and was in a pretty good rhythm. But you’ve got to stay ahead, stay on the attack and finish guys,” Sheffield said. “You can’t leave two-strike pitchs over the plate. And the walks, that’s definitely what killed me tonight. And I think I started a trend over the whole game tonight. Definitely not my best.”
The game got out of hand when the Mariners’ bullpen struggled to throw strikes and record outs, which has been a season-long issue.
Aaron Fletcher gave up four runs on three hits with two walks in two-thirds of an inning, including Adell’s second homer of the night, while Zac Grotz allowed four runs on three hits while issuing four walks and surrendering a homer to Trout.
Editor’s note: The Times declined to send reporter Ryan Divish to Anaheim for this game because of COVID-19 safety concerns.