Mariners drop 6-3 decision to Los Angeles Angels
Vernon Wells twice victimized M's right-hander Jason Vargas, and the two long balls won the opener of a three-game series for the Angels.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Los Angeles Angels @ Mariners,
7:10 p.m., ROOT
A few more nights like this — well, and maybe a couple of batting championships and a few home-run titles — and Vernon Wells is going to prove himself worthy of the contract the Los Angeles Angels assumed when they traded for him five months ago.
Wells, whose season has been marked by low production and a four-week stint on the disabled list, cranked two home runs off Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas Monday night at Safeco Field. The Angels rode them to a 6-3 victory over a Seattle team that played a lot like it's nearing the end of a three-week stretch without a day off, which it is.
"We've been playing good defense," said Mariners second baseman Adam Kennedy. "We were a little sloppy tonight."
Indeed, the M's made two errors, but it was a key misplay by one of their chief cogs of late, catcher Miguel Olivo, that helped Wells look like the $23 million man he is this year.
Vargas and the M's were into the seventh inning with a tenuous 3-2 lead against the Angels' tough right-hander, Dan Haren.
Jeff Mathis led off the inning with a double down the left-field line and was at third with one out when Torii Hunter hit a grounder to third. Mathis was running on contact, but Chone Figgins threw a perfect strike to Olivo at the plate, and Mathis was going to be toast.
But in what looked to be a relatively mild collision, the impact of Olivo's glove hitting Mathis' chest dislodged the ball, and it fell to the ground, making it a tie score while Hunter reached on the fielder's choice.
Bobby Abreu flied out for what might have ended the inning. But it was only the second out, and up came Wells, whom the Angels acquired from Toronto over the winter in a trade in which they took on his remaining $86 million salary over four more years.
Wells caught up to a low fastball from Vargas on his 103rd pitch of the night, and suddenly it was 5-3, Angels.
"Yeah, that's it right there," said Vargas philosophically, referring to the Mathis-Olivo play. "Abreu flew out to center and that would have ended it.
"Vernon hits a good pitch. It extended the inning. It's just one of those things. Even when you pitch good in this league, you can still get hurt. It happens."
Wells was hitting .188 when he torched a hanging Vargas breaking ball over the same fence in the third inning, tying the score at 2.
"Obviously, this is not going to happen every night," said Wells, who had entered with four homers and 13 RBI. "But this is a little bit of what I'm capable of.
"We've got a lot of baseball left to play. I know what I'm capable of. Been there, done that."
The Angels had been experiencing some of the same hitting miseries that have plagued this Mariners season. Los Angeles came in having scored no more than three runs in 10 of 11 games, and when Wells first connected against Vargas, they hadn't homered in 62 innings — and only once in June.
Seattle wasted a game effort against Haren, getting his pitch count up and taking a lead into the late innings. But it went for naught.
"It wasn't really about (Haren)," said Kennedy. "We just didn't play sharp. We had the lead and couldn't close it out."
The M's got continuing signs of Ichiro emerging from a significant slump, as he had two hits for the third consecutive game — a solidly stroked single to center and a bunt single. He also had two stolen bases.
"He's headed in the right direction," said M's manager Eric Wedge. "I think we have to be pleased with what we're seeing the last three or four games with Ichiro."
Having missed a chance against Haren, the M's now must contend Tuesday night with the Angels' ace, Jered Weaver (7-4, 2.24), who goes against Seattle's Doug Fister (3-7, 3.40).
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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