SEATTLE — April, in a snapshot: Angel reliever Lou Pote attempts a routine pickoff throw to first base Monday. The throw sails high above the head of first baseman Scott Spiezio and into the stands, on the fly.
This is not to pick on Pote, mind you, merely to offer an illustration of the state of the Angels, off to another awful start and the prospect of another awful season.
The Angels got pounded by the Seattle Mariners Monday, giving up five home runs and falling behind, 8-0, en route to a 16-5 defeat before 33,119 at Safeco Field. The Mariners batted around twice, beating the Angels for the 20th time in 24 games and ascending 91/2 games above them in the American League West standings.
"I don't know, man. Those guys, they just don't miss," Angel starter Scott Schoeneweis said. "You feel like you have to make a perfect pitch.
"I make a good pitch, and it gets hit. I make a bad pitch, and it gets hit far."
Mark McLemore, who made his major league debut for the Angels' last division championship team in 1986, drove in five runs, best of his career, including four on his first grand slam after 5,348 at-bats.
The Angels are 2-10 this season against Seattle and Oakland, the teams that stand between them and their October dreams. They have hit fewer home runs--and given up more home runs--than any other team in the major leagues.
If the Angels lose tonight, they will be 6-14. Never has an Angel team started so poorly--not the expansion Angels of 1961, not the 95-loss Angels of 1980, not the Angels that finished 41 games out of first place last year.
"We've created a hole for ourselves," Spiezio said, "but I believe--and I know a lot of us believe--we're capable of digging ourselves out of it. Those are great teams we're playing, but there's no excuse. We have to beat those teams to accomplish what we want to accomplish."
Just as a dormant offense displays signs of coming to life, the Angels must concern themselves with deficiencies in the pitching staff that was billed as a solid foundation for the team. Schoeneweis did not survive the third inning Monday, and reliever Donne Wall pitched to seven batters without recording an out.
After the game, Angel Manager Mike Scioscia called Wall "a project right now." It is possible the Angels could decide they cannot afford to support a project at the moment and replace Wall with minor leaguers Brendan Donnelly, Bart Miadich or Scot Shields. But the pitching problems extend beyond one or two weak links.
The Angels have lost 11 of 14 games, and their earned-run average is 6.07 over that span and 5.46 for the season. In addition to closer Troy Percival, who has retired four of 11 batters this season, the lofty ERAs include those of Wall (12.54), Ben Weber (5.00) and three-fifths of their rotation--Schoeneweis (7.33), opening-night starter Jarrod Washburn (5.48) and the Angels' $24-million, free-agent signee, Aaron Sele (6.65).
"Of all the parts of this club, the one we're very comfortable with is the starting pitching," Scioscia said, "but that has not been the case the past week."
The Angels never gave up as many runs last season as they did Monday. The last time they gave up more? September 2000, when the Mariners--of course--scored 21. The Mariners scored early and often Monday. The second batter, Jeff Cirillo, homered. On the next pitch, Bret Boone homered.
In the third inning, after Schoeneweis got the first out, the next six hitters reached base. They all scored, four on the grand slam by McLemore.
Ruben Sierra homered in the sixth inning, and Ichiro Suzuki and Cirillo homered on consecutive pitches from Wall in the seventh.
The Mariners had 18 hits, including three apiece by Sierra, McLemore and Carlos Guillen and two apiece from Cirillo and Suzuki.
The Mariners improved their record to 16-4, matching their pace of a season ago. They set an American League record with 116 victories last season.
"They've picked up right where they left off last year," Schoeneweis said. "It's amazing to watch what's going on over there."