It wasn't nearly the 10-run collapse that led to Saturday's blowout defeat, but the five-spot surrendered by Seattle's bullpen was the difference in a 9-4 loss that finished off a sweep at the hands of the American League West rival Angels in front of 33,076 at Safeco Field
Starter Jason Vargas wasn't as sharp as usual in surrendering four runs on 10 hits in six innings -- the most runs he's allowed since his season debut -- but he didn't walk any and left the game after 106 pitches with the game tied at 4.
Then, Shawn Kelley -- tagged for three runs and four walks in an 11-2 loss the day before -- entered in the seventh and gave up a two-run, go-ahead home run to Mike Napoli, and David Aardsma and recent callup Luke French allowed three more on four hits in the ninth.
"It's tough to say I rebounded because of the situation and losing the game, but I felt more like myself as far as the quality of pitches I was throwing today," Kelley said.
He was trying to strike Napoli out with a slider in the dirt after throwing five fastballs, but he left it up, and Napoli slammed it over the right-field wall. Kelley was roughed up for two singles and a double as well, giving him two bad outings in as many days.
"You always want to get right back out there," Kelley said. "Obviously, I would've liked things to go differently. It's a little unacceptable to cost our team the game two days in a row, but I'm going to keep working hard and try to get back on the horse."
Beyond the fact that the bullpen allowed 15 runs in two games to the Angels, the offense was also to blame. After a promising start, the Mariners failed to produce time and again with runners in scoring position.
Two doubles netted a run for the Angels in the first, but the Mariners answered right away with three of their own. Jose Lopez singled through the left side to score Ichiro Suzuki from second, but Chone Figgins -- on first after two Angels collided trying to field his swinging-bunt grounder -- was thrown out trying to reach third.
That took a run off the board one at-bat later when Milton Bradley doubled to left-center to score Lopez, and Josh Wilson brought Bradley around with a triple to right-center. Wilson was stranded at third when Casey Kotchman grounded out to end the inning.
That was the end of the scoring until the sixth, when Ichiro doubled home Michael Saunders to tie the score at 4. Ichiro finished 2-for-3 with two walks (one intentional) a run and an RBI, giving him a 10-game hit streak and league-leading 29th multi-hit game of the season.
"He's the best," Angels starter Joel Pineiro said. "That's why I was so upset about walking [Saunders] in the sixth. The big guy was coming up, and he did what he does."
Unfortunately, the rest of the Mariners did what they do as well. They collected 12 hits on the day but stranded 11 runners and were 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
The Mariners squandered a bases-loaded opportunity in the bottom of the fourth when Matt Tuiasosopo -- in the game for Figgins, who was ejected along with manager Don Wakamatsu at the start of the third -- struck out to end the inning.
Tuiasosopo also struck out with Ichiro at second to end the sixth and made an error in the third that -- while it didn't cost Seattle on the scoreboard -- helped raise Vargas' pitch count.
Figgins was tossed by plate umpire Tim Timmons after grounding out to end the second. He had been upset by a strike call during the at-bat, and when he turned back toward Timmons and said something from near first base, the ump sent him to the showers.
Wakamatsu came out to argue, first-base umpire Tim Tschida got involved and wound up ejecting the manager.
Wakamatsu said he was arguing that Figgins -- a player known for his cool head -- was too far away to warrant an ejection. Figgins refused to comment on the ejection after the game, but he said it was frustrating watching as his place in the order came up in crucial situations.
"It's just, it [stinks]," he said. "It's just one of those tough series man. You'd like to squeeze out a couple of games, but they put it to us this series."
Against Vargas, the Angels got one in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth frames on an RBI double, solo home run by Hideki Matsui and Lopez's two-out throwing error to first base.
"I thought Vargas pitched well," Wakamatsu said. "I think he could easily have gone into the seventh or eighth inning, but the errors cost him his pitch count and an unearned run. My hat's off to him. I thought he went out there and battled and gave us a good performance."
Mike McCall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.