Garrett Richards was not sharp, laboring through a 39-pitch second inning. The offense fell flat, mustering five hits. Reliever Cory Rasmus was tagged for five runs in the seventh. Even Mike Trout, who is rarely caught off-guard, got picked off first base in the third.
A lackluster performance by the Angels on Monday night led to a 10-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in Safeco Field, dropping the Angels four games behind Texas for the second American League wild-card spot and keeping them 41/2 games behind Houston in the division with 19 games left.
On Sunday, the Angels were one strike away from moving to within 21/2 games of first place before closer Huston Street gave up five ninth-inning runs in a devastating 5-3 loss to Houston.
Then the Angels were blown out Monday, and suddenly a team that looked like a legitimate playoff contender only days ago is closer to fourth-place Seattle than it is to a playoff spot.
“Playing in October is special — we all understand that — but it’s about getting in,” third baseman David Freese said. “If you get in, you have a shot, whether you win the division by 10 games or you sneak in.”
Freese should know. He and Albert Pujols were on the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals team that was 101/2 games back on Sept. 5 but rallied to go 16-5 in its final 21 games, claim a wild-card spot and eventually win the World Series.
Are the Angels capable of such a run?
“There are a finite number of games left — we don’t have our heads buried in the sand,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We know what we need to do, but it’s there for us. . . . We’re not that far away from being that team that can get on a streak.”
They didn’t look like it Monday night. The Angels were shut down by Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker, who allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, and now must face Seattle’s two best pitchers, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Angels actually took a 1-0 lead in the second when David Murphy singled, took third on C.J. Cron’s single to right and scored on Erick Aybar’s double-play grounder.
But Richards, who said he “struggled with command of all my pitches,” unraveled in the second inning. He walked Robinson Cano and gave up a two-run homer to Seth Smith. Then Mark Trumbo reached on an infield single and took second on Logan Morrison’s groundout.
Richards got a late break on Shawn O’Malley’s chopper to first and couldn’t get to the bag in time, Trumbo taking third. Richards then threw a wild pitch that allowed Trumbo to score for a 3-1 lead.
“I kind of spaced for a second,” Richards said of the O’Malley grounder. “I didn’t think it was going to be that far off the bag. It looked like a high chopper to first, but it kind of took me out of my game for a second.”
The Mariners tacked on a run in the fifth on Smith’s RBI double and pulled away with a six-run, six-hit seventh.
Right-hander Nick Tropeano (1-2, 5.66 earned-run average) will oppose Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez (17-8, 3.49 ERA) at Safeco Field on Tuesday at 7 p.m. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.