Francisco Arcia’s first week in the majors nearly went from historical to hysterical.
Arcia on Sunday came about as close as any position player has to pitching for the Angels in a quarter-century. Had they not lingered long enough to turn an early rout into a more respectable 8-5 loss to Seattle, the rookie catcher likely would have made his pitching debut — just three days after making his major-league debut.
“If we had not gotten back into it,” manager Mike Scioscia said, “there’s no doubt that we would have had to go to Plan B.”
And that was Arcia, who Saturday became the first player to have 10 RBIs in his first two games. He made the only pitching appearance of his professional career this season at triple-A Salt Lake and allowed five runs in one inning.
The Angels haven’t had a position player pitch since June 17, 1993, when outfielder Chili Davis finished up an 18-2 loss to Texas.
Plan B couldn’t have worked any worse for the Angels than Plan A, starter Felix Pena, who retired just one Mariner in a seven-run first inning.
“He just never got comfortable in the game,” Scioscia said of Pena, who had given up five runs total in his past four starts. “He was missing his spots. Those guys had good looks at him.”
Strictly a reliever the past two seasons, Pena was moved into the rotation this year at Salt Lake. His first two appearances for the Angels came out of the bullpen before he made his first start June 19.
He showed steady progress while going 1-1 with a 2.73 earned-run average in six starts, Pena working a career-high six innings last week in a loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Given all the Angels’ injuries, Pena’s performance helped ease the burden on a pitching staff that has been under duress most of the season. Before the game, Scioscia called Pena’s emergence “very important.”
But Sunday, nothing went right for the right-hander as eight of the nine Mariners he faced reached base and seven of them touched home.
The rundown: single, single, double, single, walk, strikeout, walk, single, double.
“I felt normal, like any other day,” Pena said. “It was just one of those days. Sometimes things don’t go your way.”
By the time reliever Jim Johnson entered, the Mariners led by a touchdown, which seemed appropriate on a day when they blitzed the Angels’ starter.
Scioscia said the possibility of using Arcia to pitch was something he considered early, given that he figured the bullpen would be capable of covering only five or six innings.
Instead, six relievers threw 140 pitches to provide 8 2/3 innings of support, holding the Mariners to one run and giving the offense a chance to bring intrigue to a game that felt decided after only a half-inning.
Trailing 8-4 and with two runners on in the seventh, Andrelton Simmons launched a drive that had all the appearance of being a three-run homer until Denard Span leaped and caught the ball at the top of the left-field wall.
Instead of tightening the score to 8-7, Simmons trotted back to the dugout with a baseball rarity: a sacrifice fly worthy of replays from every available angle.
“When he was jumping, I knew it had a chance,” Simmons said. “I was just hoping for the ball to fall somehow. He made a good play.”
The loss left the Angels (54-53) with a 5-5 homestand, the very definition of wheel-spinning at a time when they need to be advancing in the standings.
They slipped to nine games behind the Mariners for the American League’s second wild card spot with 55 games remaining.
And all they could cling to afterward was an admirable comeback on a day that still was lost.
“We had a chance,” Simmons said. “We were a couple inches from a different result.”