The Angels were hoping they could gain ground on first-place Texas with a soft stretch of schedule, but that plan got off to a shaky start with a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on Monday night.
Hanging on. Joel Pineiro had every excuse on hand. He'd been shuttled between the rotation and the bullpen. He'd had his rotation spot skipped, making him pitch on eight days' rest. But he kept it together in a crucial game, dodging trouble throughout to give the Angels six solid innings. Easier venue, softer opponent, but it was a better performance than any of the Angels' "Big Three" could manage in Texas.
Big bat. It's remarkable how consistent Mark Trumbo has been at producing runs in his rookie season. The Angels' most powerful hitter had been fairly cold since that season-turning two-run home run against Texas a couple of weeks ago -- batting .219 in 32 at-bats since -- but he still manages to produce. His two-run blast erased Seattle's lead and gave him five RBIs since that epic home run. He also had a two-out double in the ninth but was stranded.
Heating up. Erick Aybar has been in a ferocious slump most of the second half, but he has been busting out of it lately. Aybar had two more hits, including an RBI double, and he's riding a nine-game hitting streak.
Reliable relief. All season long, the Angels have been searching for a reliable third reliever. Manager Mike Scioscia said he would have used Scott Downs in the eighth if the Angels had taken a lead, but they didn't. So, Hisanori Takahashi went back out for a second inning. It didn't go well. Mike Carp hit a majestic two-run home run, one of the longest at Safeco all-time.
Early hook. Pineiro looked shaky all night, but was he better than the relief options the Angels had available? Pineiro, operating on extra rest, had thrown only 88 pitches through six innings when Scioscia took him out. That decision wasn't necessarily wrong -- maybe Pineiro would have done more damage than Takahashi did -- but it's open for debate.
Cooling off. Aside from a brief outburst in the fourth inning -- four straight hits with two outs -- the Angels did virtually nothing offensively. That may cost them some momentum, because they were in their best offensive groove of the season at the end of the last homestand and in Texas.