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Angels Stall Against Mariners

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Manager Mike Scioscia wants the Angels to do a better job of carrying momentum from a victory into the next game so they can put together a few longer winning streaks. But there is an old saying in baseball, that momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitchers.

That did not work in the Angels’ favor Thursday. They started a right-hander who had about as much momentum as a car stuck in rush-hour traffic, while the Seattle Mariners countered with a young right-hander whose career seems to be going from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.

Advantage, Mariners.

Gil Meche, a 21-year-old who is one of baseball’s best young pitchers, gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings, and the Mariners roughed up Angel starter Kent Bottenfield for four runs in 5 2/3 innings of a 7-2 victory before 44,387 in Safeco Field.

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Seattle first baseman John Olerud hit two Bottenfield fastballs for home runs, a solo shot in the fourth and a two-run shot in the sixth that broke a 2-2 tie, and Meche, who hasn’t lost since May 11 and is 4-4 with a 3.49 earned-run average, gave up only five hits and struck out five, though he did not earn a decision. (Jose Paniagua, who relieved Meche in the sixth, got the victory.)

Stan Javier homered against Angel reliever Mark Petkovsek in the seventh and Robert Machado homered against Derrick Turnbow in the eighth, as the Mariners, who have won eight of nine, moved into first place in the American League West ahead of the Oakland A’s. The Angels dropped six games back.

Bottenfield, acquired with second baseman Adam Kennedy from the St. Louis Cardinals for center fielder Jim Edmonds in spring training, fell to 4-7 with a 5.60 ERA, and he has given up 13 homers in his last eight starts.

In two starts since returning from the disabled list last week, he has given up 10 runs in 10 2/3 innings of losses to the Minnesota Twins and Seattle.

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Though Scioscia and catcher Matt Walbeck thought Bottenfield did a better job of pitching inside Thursday and had better overall command of his pitches, it was obvious Bottenfield was frustrated.

After giving up Olerud’s homer in the sixth, the next batter, Mike Cameron, lingered outside the batter’s box a little too long for Bottenfield’s taste, and Bottenfield told him to step to the plate, sparking a short verbal confrontation between the two. And after the game, the normally cooperative pitcher declined to speak to reporters.

“I’m sure he’s frustrated; everyone wants to win,” Walbeck said. “He came over here [in the trade] and is one of our top two pitchers, and this was a big start for him. I hope it doesn’t carry over into the next start. He still needs to make good pitches.”

Bottenfield leads the Angels in home runs allowed (18) and walks (43), two areas that have become a concern not just for Bottenfield but for the entire staff.

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The Angels, on a pace to shatter their franchise record for home runs, have now given up as many homers as they’ve hit--121. Only one team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals, has given up more homers. The Angels also rank fourth in the big leagues with 328 walks.

“What concerns me more than the homers is the walks,” Scioscia said. “We have to tighten up in that area.”

As frustrated as Bottenfield was Thursday, he couldn’t have been more frustrated than Angel third baseman Troy Glaus, who struck out three more times and is one for 19 with 15 strikeouts in his last five games in Safeco Field.

Still, with Baltimore Oriole third baseman Cal Ripken going on the disabled list Wednesday because of a back injury, it appears Glaus will be the American League’s starting third baseman in the July 11 All-Star game at Atlanta.

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Glaus ranks third in fan balloting behind Ripken, whose streak of starting 16 consecutive All-Star games will come to an end, and the Cleveland Indians’ Travis Fryman. But when a leading vote-getter is hurt, the No. 2 vote-getter doesn’t automatically get the start; the manager chooses the starter.

And Glaus, who is batting .309 with 23 homers and 53 RBIs, is having the best offensive season by far of any third baseman in the league. “That’s a slam dunk, isn’t it?” Scioscia said of Glaus’ selection.

Glaus said he’s “not even thinking about” the All-Star game . . . but he’s probably glad it’s not in Seattle.


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