Angels learn Mariners aren’t that scary after all


SEATTLE -- These guys?

These are the guys who have been growling and gurgling and groping below the Angels?

These are the monsters under their bed?

For the first time since the Seattle Mariners began scaring them into trickles of sweat, the Angels flicked on the lights Monday and carefully leaned down to examine their apparent nemesis.

Nothing there.

Nothing more, anyway, than an angry manager, a sleeping second baseman, a moody outfielder, and a performance so vacant, the only thing remotely frightening was Safeco Field’s dancing groundskeepers.

It was Angels 6, Mariners big fat zeros.

It was the Angels taking a three-game division lead that suddenly seems like 30.

Granted, the Mariners haven’t played a truly big game like this in about four years. And, certainly, the Angels’ pressure play can make anyone cower.


But, beginning with the first hitter in the first inning, the Mariners looked as if they had wandered into a Seahawks Super Bowl.

“You can’t give in to external factors,” said Raul Ibanez, one of the few who actually showed up. “You’ve got a job to do. You have to focus on the task at hand.”

The Mariners lost their focus. They lost their cool.

Here, in the home of the Wave, their fans even lost their groove, struggling to begin the cheer and ending it almost quicker than John McLaren’s evening.

The Mariners’ manager started the madness by being thrown out of the game after his first batter in the first inning. Thrown out for arguing a strike-three call. Thrown out by the third base umpire.

“I’ve never seen something like that before,” batter Ichiro Suzuki said. “I can’t even comprehend it.”

Suzuki was called out on a foul tip even though the ball hit the ground as it was being scooped up by catcher Jeff Mathis.


After McLaren argued with plate umpire Gary Darling, he returned to the dugout and waved his arms at third base umpire Jerry Meals, who did not change the call. From more than 150 feet away, Meals then threw McLaren out of the game.

“That’s what happened, I don’t know anything more,” McLaren said.

The umpiring crew would not comment on the ejection.

After being tossed, McLaren stalked out to third base and screamed at Meals for a few minutes before returning to the dugout.

Justified or not, it set a tone of desperation on a team that didn’t need it. Playing one of the coolest teams in baseball, the Mariners began the night in chaos, and never recovered.

“We can handle it,” McLaren said of the pennant-race pressure.

It sure didn’t look like it.

The next distraction occurred in the third inning, with the Mariners trailing, 3-0, but finally pressuring John Lackey with runners on second and third and two out.

On the first pitch, Jose Guillen loudly complained to Darling about a called strike. Three pitches later, he angrily popped out, slamming down his bat.

A couple of hours later, Guillen had finished the night going hitless in four at-bats while failing to advance five runners, not his dream night against the team that ran him out of Anaheim at the end of 2004.


“It was like Lackey was reading our minds,” Guillen said.

Before the game, he claimed that, for the first time since inciting bad blood during games against the Angels, for the first time since calling Angels Manager Mike Scioscia “garbage,” he was finally at peace with his Angels departure.

“That’s all in the past, I have a lot of friends over there, I have a lot of respect for Mike Scioscia as a manager,” he said.

Don’t blame the Angels for raising their eyebrows. They’ve heard that before.

“It’s all behind us,” Scioscia said, and that was that.

The final Mariners indignity occurred in the bottom of the third inning Monday, after Gary Matthews Jr. hit a looping fly ball to center field that dropped in front of Suzuki’s glove.

Matthews never stopped running. But Suzuki quickly gathered the ball and threw a bullet to second baseman Jose Lopez, who caught it at second base with Matthews still several steps away.

But Lopez was nonchalant about the tag, simply putting down his glove and expecting Matthews to slide into it. But Matthews smartly stopped his slide intentionally, before the tag, then stepped on the base before Lopez could tag him.

Said McLaren: “Yes, he had plenty of time to tag him, I wasn’t happy about that.”

Said Suzuki: “When I saw the throw, I thought it was an out, and Raul [Ibanez] and I started cheering. What happened next, I did not understand.”


The explanation is simple. In the biggest night of their season, it was another Mariner unable to come up big.

Matthews moved to third base on a poked single by Kendry Morales, then scored on a suicide squeeze by Mathis, giving Lackey all the help he needed.

“We’ll be ready for tomorrow night,” promised McLaren.

Oh, the horror.


Bill Plaschke can be reached at To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to