SEATTLE — The Angels managed all of two hits and four baserunners against a pitcher who was 0-11 with a 6.35 earned-run average in his previous 15 starts, and for the second consecutive night, they could not beat the team with the third-worst record in baseball.
Is this any way to run a pennant race?
Seattle right-hander Ryan Franklin went the distance on a two-hitter for his first win since June 5, and Raul Ibanez knocked in the game's only run with an eighth-inning single off reliever Francisco Rodriguez, as the Seattle Mariners beat the Angels, 1-0, before 31,269 in Safeco Field on Wednesday night.
The Angels wasted another superb start, a 7 2/3 -inning, one-run, five-hit, 10-strikeout effort from right-hander John Lackey, and blew another chance to cut into Oakland's lead in the American League West.
The Angels, who have lost five of eight, remained two games behind the A's, who also lost Wednesday, and fell 5 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race with 17 games remaining.
And the Angels don't exactly have their stopper going in the series finale -- Aaron Sele, who has given up 11 earned runs in five innings of his last two games, will start tonight against the Mariners.
"We just have to keep playing the game and minimize the thinking," Angel catcher Bengie Molina said. "If we don't think, things will fall in place. A lot of us are thinking too much. Everyone wants to help the team win. We have to turn the page."
Whether the Angels are pressing or are a little fatigued, there is no question they are in a funk. After scoring 29 runs in four games Friday through Monday, they scored two runs against Seattle rookie Bobby Madritsch on Tuesday and were shut out for the eighth time this season Wednesday.
Leadoff batter David Eckstein is 10 for 60 in his last 17 games. No. 2 hitter Darin Erstad is seven for 37 in his last nine games. Troy Glaus is three for 22 and has driven in one run in seven games. Jose Guillen has one RBI in 12 games.
"You're not going to pound the ball every night, but we have flat-out not gotten it done offensively the last two games," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Some guys have pitched incredible games the last two nights, but we're definitely better than two hits and four baserunners. We didn't pressure them at all."
Franklin (4-15) threw 112 pitches, 74 strikes, and allowed one Angel to reach third when Erstad tripled with two out in the third inning. Vladimir Guerrero grounded out to end the inning, and Franklin retired the next 17 batters before walking Guerrero with two out in the ninth.
Seattle Manager Bob Melvin went to the mound, and the loud boos accompanying his visit turned to cheers when he let Franklin continue. Garret Anderson then fouled out to third to end the game.
Franklin breezed through many innings, and the Angels rarely worked any deep counts, but Scioscia didn't think his hitters were too impatient.
"Some guys had some good cuts on balls that were mistakes and missed them," Scioscia said. "There's a fine line between blindly hacking and getting a mistake and missing it. Some of those early outs, we just missed the pitches."
Lackey was every bit as good as Franklin, spotting his fastball and recording most of his career-high 10 strikeouts on sharp breaking balls.
Second baseman Adam Kennedy helped preserve the scoreless tie when, with the speedy Ichiro Suzuki on first and one out in the eighth, he made a superb diving stop of Randy Winn's grounder up the middle, spun around on his knees and shoveled a backhand flip to second in time to force Suzuki for the second out.
"A.K. should win a Gold Glove, hands down," Lackey said. "He's the best second baseman in the league."
That didn't slow Seattle's momentum, though. Edgar Martinez singled to right-center, advancing Winn to third, and Scioscia summoned Rodriguez, who saved a victory for Lackey in Cleveland on Sept. 5.
This time, Rodriguez hung a 1-and-0 slider that Ibanez stroked into right field for a single and a 1-0 lead. Afterward, in the Angel clubhouse, Lackey put his arm around Rodriguez and whispered into his ear.
"I told him don't worry about it," Lackey said. "He hooked me up big-time in Cleveland. I'm never going to question him coming into a game. We need him down the stretch. He has to shake it off and come back [tonight]."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
The progress of Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki in his pursuit of the single-season major league record for base hits, held by George Sisler:
Suzuki on Wednesday: 1 for 4 vs. Angels.
Suzuki for the season: 233 hits, with 17 games remaining (on pace for 260 hits).
Sisler's record: 257 hits in 1920 for the St. Louis Browns.
Note: Sisler set the record in a 154-game season, during which he batted .407. Two years later, he again led the American League with a .420 batting average.