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SEATTLE 2, ANGELS 1

Failure to execute is costly for the Angels

Inability to produce a ground ball to move a runner to third base in the eighth inning is a wasted opportunity in a loss to Mariners.

September 02, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | ON THE ANGELS

SEATTLE — The Angels have been pounding so many opponents into submission, clubbing 105 home runs in their previous 72 games, that they haven't had to resort much to the little-ball attack that was such a prominent part of their offense in recent years.

Tuesday night, they dusted off their old syllabus to Situational Hitting 101 but bombed on the test, their failure to hit a simple ground ball to the right side in the eighth inning proving costly in a 2-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

With the Texas Rangers sweeping a doubleheader from Toronto on Tuesday, the Angels' lead in the American League West was trimmed from six to 4 1/2 games. Not that the Angels noticed.

"We're not looking at the scoreboard -- we're not paying attention," right fielder Bobby Abreu said. "We have to play the game and win, no matter what the other teams are doing."

After outscoring Oakland and Seattle, 19-1, in their previous two games, the Angels found themselves in a low-scoring pitchers' duel Tuesday night, with Seattle right-hander Doug Fister and Angels right-hander Ervin Santana each giving up one run, Santana going six innings and Fister 7 1/3 innings.

With the Angels trailing, 2-1, Maicer Izturis, who drove in the team's only run with a double to right field in the second, led off the eighth with another double to right against Fister.

Up stepped Erick Aybar, who needed to bunt Izturis to third or hit a grounder to the right side to advance the runner. He did neither, popping Fister's first-pitch fastball on the outer half of the plate to left field for an easy out.

"I guess he was too aggressive there," Abreu said of Aybar, who is batting .303 this season. "He was trying to move the runner, to do his job. He was late on it. It happens."

Had Izturis been on third, he would have scored easily on pinch-hitter Mike Napoli's ensuing fly ball to the warning track in left field against Mark Lowe. Instead, Izturis held at second, and Chone Figgins flied to center field to end the inning.

"We'd have liked Erick to pull the ball, to get a base hit, but at the very least, when he's done hitting, we want that runner on third base," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

"He did get a little anxious. He went for a fastball away. He didn't wait for a pitch that he could handle, to do what he needed to do with it."

Could the Angels have had too much rust on their little-ball game?

"Even though we've been scoring a ton of runs, we've moved guys over when we've needed to," Scioscia said. "We just didn't execute tonight."

The Mariners ended a 1-1 tie in the seventh, a rally that Franklin Gutierrez started with a two-out infield single, a slow roller to shortstop, against Darren Oliver.

Jose Lopez followed with a one-hop double into the right-field corner, a ball that squirted out of Abreu's glove as the Angels right fielder tried to cut it off.

Abreu grabbed the carom off the wall, but his initial bobble gave Gutierrez just enough time to race home ahead of Izturis' relay home. Lopez was caught too far off second on the hit and was tagged out in a rundown to end the inning.

"I could have made that play," Abreu said. "If I cut it off, the runner would have held at third. I got to the ball quick, but I didn't squeeze the glove enough, and I bobbled it."

The Mariners ended an 18-inning scoreless streak with a run in the first, as Gutierrez singled with one out, stole second, took third on Lopez's fly to right field and scored on Mike Sweeney's single to left field.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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