SEATTLE -- To avoid reaching the 100-loss mark for the second time in the past three seasons, the Mariners must find a way -- any way -- to beat teams in their own division. They dropped a 5-3 decision to the American League West rival Angels on Monday night before 20,545 at Safeco Field. It was Seattle's 28th loss in 39 games against teams in their division and the Mariners (51-80) still have 18 games remaining against the Angels, Athletics and Rangers. "It seems like [the Angels] always play us tough all year," shortstop Josh Wilson said. "Not just them, but Oakland and Texas. There is something about playing teams in your own division gets the blood flowing a little more. Those are the guys you have to see 20 times a year and going out there and getting beat over and over again ..."
The Mariners are 3-11 against the Angels this season and have sustained 48 losses to them since 2007, the most losses to one team in the Major Leagues. But if there ever was time for the Mariners to start getting back at their division nemesis, this series seemed to be a good time. The Angels entered the set with three straight losses and were on a 26-inning scoreless streak. "To think they are going to leave here and double that total is probably not realistic," Mariners interim manager Daren Brown said. And it wasn't. One rough inning after several good ones spoiled another start for right-hander David Pauley. In a carbon copy of his previous start against the Red Sox, when he took a two-hit shutout into the sixth inning before surrendering four runs, Pauley had another gem in the works, allowing two hits and no runs through five innings. But three home runs and a single produced the first four runs of the game. The Angels made two defensive gaffes, one in the bottom of the sixth, when a routine infield popup was not caught and became the first of three singles, which led to two runs. Seattle got another defensive "gift" in the ninth. After Casey Kotchman walked, Franklin Gutierrez hit a line drive to center field that Peter Bourjos played into a double. However, Gutierrez sprinted around the bases with his head down and after passing second, looked up and saw that Kotchman had been held at third base. He put on the brakes and nonchalantly returned to second. The throw appeared to be a bit late and though replays showed that Gutierrez in fact got his foot on the bag before being tagged, he was called out. "I don't know what the umpire [Jerry Meals] saw," said Gutierrez, who argued his case on the field. "I was safe and he called me out. What can you say about that? I saw the replay and it was obvious that I was safe, but he called me out." Brown came out of the first base dugout to argue the call, but not for long. Kotchman eventually scored Seattle's final run of the game and the Angels miscues were not as decisive as they could have been. "There's some things in a game that you toss and turn over and things on the defensive side that shouldn't happen," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're fortunate tonight that we held on for the win." Indeed, it could have gone either way. "I thought we had put ourselves in position to bring the tying run to the plate," Brown said of Gutierrez's hit. "That's all you can ask for. But we got a guy thrown out." As a result, the four runs Pauley surrendered in the sixth inning proved decisive. "I thought Pauley was real good for five innings," Brown said. "In sixth inning, he left some pitches up in the zone and they obviously didn't miss them. He's had that a couple of times. One inning got to him, and that was the case tonight." And it was the sixth once again. Bourjos and Bobby Abreu each hit solo home runs in the inning and Hideki Matsui tacked on a two-run blast that saddled Seattle with its 80th loss of the season. The series opener featured one of the most dazzling double plays of the season, one sure to show up on highlight films. With one out and a runner on first base in the fifth, Angels catcher Jeff Mathis drilled a one-hopper to the left of shortstop Josh Wilson on a hit-and-run play. Wilson hit the dirt to snag the ball, and realizing he didn't have enough time to transfer the ball to his bare hand and slip it to second baseman Chone Figgins, he flipped it out of his glove to his double-play partner, who caught it, wheeled an threw out Mathis at first. Pauley might have been the most excited, giving high-fives to everyone in the area. "I don't really keep track of them, but that was pretty good," said Wilson when asked if this was the best play he could remember making. "The toss [from his glove] is not high percentage, I would say, but in the moment, Figgy was calling for the ball and I did what I could to get it to him as fast as I could." Ichiro Suzuki did all he could to manufacture a run in the first and third innings, but the hitters behind him kept making outs. After going hitless Saturday and Sunday, Ichiro lined a leadoff single into right-center in his first at-bat against winner Ervin Santana, and stole second while Russell Branyan was striking out for the second out of the inning. Ichiro was left stranded as Jose Lopez's line drive was snagged by first baseman Juan Rivera. The next time Ichiro came to bat, there were two outs and nobody on base. He singled to center, giving him a Major League high, 52 multihit games this season.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.