Shortstop Maicer Izturis bobbles the ball in the eighth inning of the Angels'… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Neither the opposing pitcher nor the out-of-town scoreboard was as forgiving to the Angels on Tuesday night as they were on Monday. The Angels, on the hand, were in quite a charitable mood.
The result was a sloppy 2-1 loss to Seattle that, combined with Texas' win over Tampa Bay, dropped the Angels 31/2 games behind the Rangers in the American League West with 20 games to play.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was as stifling as the heavy air on a muggy, 87-degree evening, limiting the Angels to one unearned run and four hits in eight innings and striking out seven to improve to 14-11 and lower his earned-run average to 3.15.
No surprise there. The 25-year-old right-hander and 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner has superb command of a lively 94-mph fastball, sinker, curve and changeup, and he did to the Angels what he does to most opponents.
What was surprising was that the usually sure-handed Angels, knowing they had to pitch well, play airtight defense and come up with a clutch hit or two to beat Hernandez, did not rise to the challenge, committing as many errors (four) as they had hits.
"A couple of miscues got us," Manager Mike Scioscia said after his team yielded a pair of unearned runs and lost for only the second time in six games. "When you're facing a tough pitcher, you can't crack the door for him."
Justin Smoak led off the second inning for Seattle with a single off Ervin Santana, and Miguel Olivo followed with a slow roller to third.
Alberto Callaspo charged and fielded the ball cleanly, but his off-balance throw to second went into right field for an error, allowing the Mariners to put runners on second and third.
Kyle Seager's spinning dribbler to the mound kicked off Santana's glove for an error, as Seattle loaded the bases, and Trayvon Robinson's sacrifice fly made it 1-0 Mariners.
Though Callaspo's momentum was carrying him toward first base on the key play, Scioscia said throwing to second was the right move for the third baseman.
"That force-out is a big out to get with nobody out, and it wasn't like it was a barehand play," Scioscia said. "He came in, had his feet under him, and it was a feed he makes all the time.
"This guy has an accurate arm as anyone on the left side. He just pulled it a little bit, and we didn't get the out. He had him by a step, so I think it was the right play."
Seager opened the fourth with a bouncer to shortstop, but Erick Aybar sat back on the ball and bobbled it for an error. Seager stole second, took third on Robinson's single to right and scored on Michael Saunders' fielder's-choice grounder for a 2-0 Seattle lead.
Torii Hunter snapped the Angels to life when he raced in from right field and made a superb diving catch of Seager's flare with two on to end the top of the fifth.
Hunter then sparked the offense with a one-out bunt single in the sixth, and he took second on Hernandez's throwing error. Mark Trumbo grounded out, but Callaspo singled to center to pull the Angels within 2-1.
But Hernandez, who threw a complete game in a 2-1 victory over the Angels in Seattle last Wednesday, retired the next seven batters, and closer Brandon League retired the side in order in the ninth for his 33rd save.
"This didn't eliminate us tonight," Scioscia said, "but any time you lose ground, the challenge gets a little steeper."