The Seattle Mariners, on the verge of taking what the Angels thought was rightfully theirs, moved to the brink of the American League West title with Tuesday's 10-2 thrashing of the Angels before a paid crowd of 46,935 in the Kingdome.
The Mariners, who were 13 games behind the Angels on Aug. 3, have steamrollered their way to a three-game lead with five games left, and their frenzied fans, who have never witnessed a local postseason game but provided a playoff atmosphere Tuesday, can practically taste the title.
All the shellshocked Angels want to do is curl up in a corner somewhere and cover their eyes.
"It's definitely hard to watch, especially because it could have been us," right fielder Tim Salmon said. "But maybe that's what happens when you think about it too soon.
"We had an 11-game lead with more than a month to play and everyone started asking us about the playoffs, comparing us to the great Angel teams of the past. You start thinking about it, and you get caught up in that. So it's tough to swallow when you see another team do it."
About all the Angels can hope for now is a wild-card berth, they are 1 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees in that race.
"If we don't win [today], we'll be four games back with four to play, and that's not a good situation to be in," third baseman Tony Phillips said. "If we win, we'll be two back, and Seattle has to go to Texas [for four games]. Texas is a good club and anything can happen.
"But if we drop another game to Seattle . . . with the way this team is playing, with [pitchers] like Randy Johnson and Andy Benes, they're not going to lose four in a row. That's not gonna happen. But if we win [today] we can still keep some pressure on them."
Pressure? On the Mariners? This team seems oblivious to pressure.
The Mariners have won seven in a row and 15 of their last 19 and have defeated opponents in every possible way--pounding them into submission, demoralizing them with dominant pitching and stunning them with late-game heroics.
They beat the Angels on Tuesday with power and precision. Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay Buhner hit homers, and Tino Martinez came through with a huge two-out hit, a three-run double in the sixth inning that gave Seattle a 9-1 lead.
The Mariners delivered in the clutch--they scored seven of their runs after two were out--and right-hander Benes (7-1) gave up only one run on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings.
The Angels had the leadoff man on base in six of nine innings but hardly mounted a threat, scoring their only runs on Garret Anderson's bases-empty homer in the fifth and Greg Myers' solo homer into the second deck of the right-field bleachers in the ninth.
Seattle pounced on every opportunity, beginning with the Angels' first mistake. That was starter Shawn Boskie hitting No. 2 batter Joey Cora with two outs and no one on in the third.
Boskie, who is 1-5 with a 7.48 earned-run average this month and a career 2-11, 7.57-ERA pitcher in September, then gave up an RBI double to Griffey and a run-scoring single to Edgar Martinez.
He hit the last batter he faced, Tino Martinez, and reliever Rich Monteleone came in and gave up Buhner's RBI single that gave Seattle a 3-0 lead.
The Mariners continued to apply pressure, scoring two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and three in the sixth during an offensive performance that had some Angels admiring the display.
"Instead of waiting to get your butt kicked you've got to take it to the other team," shortstop Gary DiSarcina said. "That's what they're doing, and that's how we used to play. It's a great feeling, being on that side of the ball, when everything's going your way and you're hammering the ball all over the park.
"We used to take the field thinking, 'How much are we going to beat them by today?' We had the feeling we could score at will. Now we go out hoping to win instead of expecting to win, and there's a big difference. You go out and hope for six or seven innings, and nothing happens."