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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 19, 2008 10:24 PM

Barely a whimper

Posted by Geoff Baker

angels2 014.jpg

The fireworks go off after the home team secures a victory in just two hours, 11 minutes.

Let's get a few things out of the way. The Mariners had some chances on some well-hit balls tonight, balls that died at the wall or near the warning track. They got decent pitching from Jarrod Washburn, who was indeed a Mike Reilly strike call away from getting out of a three-run fourth inning unscathed.

But the Mariners lost 4-1 here to the Los Angeles Angels because they simply haven't played good enough baseball. Good teams find ways to get runners home from third when they have to. They tend to get umpire's calls to go their way. More often than not, they find the luck that eluded Washburn on that Erick Aybar single off the end of his bat that cashed in two runs.

And goods teams don't pour salt on their own wound the way Brad Wilkerson did with those two terrible throws home from right field. I stopped counting the bounces after three or four. The second throw turned out not to matter. But the first one, ill-advised to begin with, led directly to a fourth Los Angeles run when Aybar moved up to second and was able to score on a two-out single by Chone Figgins.

"If we want to catch them...we've got to beat them,'' Washburn said. "We did a good job, played a good series up at our place. But we haven't played that well the two games here.''

Washburn felt the 2-2 pitch to Aybar was a strike and that the teams would still be playing a 1-1 game had umpire Mike Reilly given him the call.

While the lefty did keep his team reasonably close, leaving after six innings down 4-0, the M's appeared to have no chance of coming back. That's a string of strike-throwing pitchers that have given them fits already. Joe Saunders, Edwin Jackson, Zack Greinke and now Ervin Santana. What's going on?

"I think you've got to try to lay off his breaking balls because he had a good breaking ball some of us chased,'' said Greg Norton, whose second-inning double was one of only three hits by Seattle off Santana. "Just try to get him over the plate and not miss when you do get it.''

Trouble is, the M's did miss. They can't keep relying on late home run balls to get them back into games. They have to start doing some things earlier. The M's do miss hittable pitches. They did a lot of it the first two weeks, got better on their recent 7-3 stretch, but haven't done much in the early going here.

It's not a season-wrecker just yet. But some of you have already pointed out the importance of tomorrow's game. Win it and the M's go home a respectable 3-2 on the trip and only two games out of the division lead. Lose the game, to the Angels' worst starting pitcher, and the trip is 2-3 and Seattle is four games out. Not a season-ender by any means. But a much less comfortable environment in which to fix some of the offensvie struggles still plaguing this squad.

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