The Angels patch here, and plug there. But swiftly and surely, the team springs another leak.
The Angels went to Minnesota with only one victory in August and with a sputtering offense. Then they hit seven home runs in three games and won three in a row.
That done, they arrived here and watched their frustrating fifth-starter's spot self-destruct again in a 5-3 loss Friday night to the Mariners before 27,461 in the Kingdome.
Joe Grahe, the latest candidate to assume the spot, upheld the sorry tradition that began with Scott Lewis and was passed on to Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Fetters and now to Grahe, who is taking his second turn at the job.
Grahe, who twice this season has given up five or more runs in the first inning, lasted 2 1/3 innings. After giving up one run in the first, was chased during a three-run third. He allowed the leadoff hitter to reach all three times--twice with walks and once when he hit a batter.
He yielded five hits and three walks and struck out one.
The problem was simple.
"It was pretty obvious," Manager Doug Rader said. "His command was terrible. If you can't throw strikes and you can't get ahead, you're not going to survive."
The Angels have to wonder if they would be surviving this season a little bit better if they had a dependable fifth starter.
Grahe is 0-4 with an 10.47 earned-run average as a starter. In 16 1/3 innings as a starter, he has given up 19 earned runs.
Together, the fifth starters have a 1-13 record, and an 8.38 ERA.
Grahe was coming off two good outings, but by the time he left Friday, Ken Griffey Jr. already had two run-scoring doubles--one to right field and one to left--and Jay Buhner had picked up his 18th RBI of the month.
The Angels can't even match his RBIs with victories. The loss was the Angels' 11th this month.
Since their one day in first place on July 3, the Angels have lost 26 of 38 games.
After their confidence-building visit to Minneapolis, they arrived in Seattle to see headlines of "Home Sweep Home for M's," and "Broom, Broom, M's Roar Past Athletics."
The Mariners, whose victory over the Angels put them 10 games over .500 for the first time in history, had swept four games from Oakland. Instead of playing for their first winning record, the Mariners are in fourth place, 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Twins in the American League West.
"It's a nice thing to say that we're the first team to do that (10 games over .500)," Manager Jim Lefebvre said. "But I'm sure our guys are thinking more than that. It's a milestone, but tomorrow is a new day."
Grahe faltered Friday, and for one of the many times this month, the Angels didn't have the offense to overcome five runs.
They stranded 10 runners, and didn't score until the sixth inning, when they scored two runs, one of them unearned because of third baseman Edgar Martinez's fielding error. They also left the bases loaded that inning.
The Angels thought they had found the solution to their season-long problem in Grahe, who pitched well in his last outing, losing to Oakland on Sunday, 3-2, after Luis Polonia's misplay of a fly ball contributed to all three runs.
On Friday, Grahe gave up a run in the first after walking leadoff hitter Martinez, who went to third on Harold Reynolds' single and scored on Griffey's double. Had Reynolds not been thrown out trying to take second, Griffey would have had two RBIs.
In the third inning, Grahe permitted six consecutive batters to reach base before being replaced.
"The last couple of starts he's thrown the ball pretty well, but tonight, he couldn't seem to find the plate," catcher Lance Parrish said. "This ballclub has searched long and hard for somebody to fill the fifth-starter's spot. It's not for lack of trying, not for lack of effort.
"Joe Grahe has the ability to pitch in the fifth spot. Today he just let some things get away."
Grahe, who talked quietly with pitching coach Marcel Lachemann after the game, understood the problem clearly.
"I've got to get ahead of the hitters, that's all there is to it," he said. "They weren't first-pitch hacking, so it was just a matter of getting the ball over the plate. It came down to making 2-1, 3-1 pitches. You're going to get hit that way."
The Mariners, with five victories in a row, are playing well.
"It's one thing to hit a good 0-2 pitch or a 1-2 pitch, and another to hit a 3-1 pitch or a 3-0 pitch," Grahe said. "A team that's hot like that, it just feeds even more to them."