ANAHEIM -- The Mariners realize that the path to division supremacy goes through Angel Stadium, and their first visit of the season here has not gone the way they scripted the three-game series. They ran into an opposing pitcher Saturday night that could put almost every pitch he threw exactly where he wanted it and dominated the Mariners so overwhelmingly that manager John McLaren didn't give a sign the entire game -- and that rarely happens. That explains the difficulty the Mariners had mustering any offense, settling for a solo home run from third baseman Adrian Beltre in a 4-1 loss to the Angels in front of a sellout crowd of 43,959.
In slightly more than two hours, the Mariners managed just four hits off right-hander Ervin Santana and right-handed reliever Scot Shields. The loss assured the Mariners of losing only their second series of the season. But it hurts even more because of who they are playing. "I don't think it is any secret that they are the team to beat in the division," Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn said, "and to get where we want to be, we have to beat them. We have to figure out a way to beat them." Washburn was the tough-luck loser in Saturday night's game, surrendering a run in the second inning and three more in a decisive fourth, a rally Washburn precipitated by a pitch that he thought should have caused an inning-ending strikeout. With runners on second and third, two outs and a 2-2 count on Erick Aybar, Washburn threw a cut fastball that, he believes, broke enough that it was in the strike zone. But the pitch was called a ball and Aybar blooped the next pitch into right field for a two-run single. "I thought it was a strike," Washburn (1-3) said, "and if it's called a strike, we're still playing." That being said, the veteran southpaw said he didn't want to put all of the blame on home-plate umpire Mike Reilly. "He's a good umpire and has been umpiring for a long time," he said. "But umpires miss calls. They make more right calls than wrong calls, but unfortunately, he missed that one and it cost us." The Mariners, held to one hit through the first six innings -- a one-out double by designated hitter Greg Norton in the second inning -- finally scored when Beltre slugged a two-out home run to left field in the seventh inning, his third of the season. "Santana was good tonight," McLaren said. "He threw the ball extremely well. He threw hard and located his breaking pitches ... very impressive. I thought Wash threw the ball well, also. He had that one bad inning, gave up three runs on a Texas League [single] and a seeing-eye ground ball. "But he hung in there and put some zeros up there. That's Wash -- he'll battle you. Take away a couple of those hits, and we might still be playing." The series concludes Sunday afternoon, and the Mariners certainly could use a pick-me-up before returning to Seattle for a brief homestand against the Orioles and Athletics. "There is always an urgency to beat your rivals and the teams in your division, but you can't put so much emphasis on it that it's a do-or-die situation," McLaren said. "Every series we play them, we are looking to win the series and so are they. We beat them last weekend, two-out-of-three, and are looking to win tomorrow." The chances of that happening are substantially better if the Mariners can get off to a quick start, and that starts with Ichiro Suzuki. "We need to get Ichiro hot again," McLaren said. "When he gets on base, things happen. They have done a good job of keeping Ichiro off the bases." Ichiro is 1-for-8 in the series -- an infield single in the sixth inning Friday night -- and has gotten one ball past the infield. He is now batting .250.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.