Jerome Williams (5-5) gave up six earned runs on seven hits with two home… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)
SEATTLE — Jerome Williams delivered his third straight shoddy start in an 8-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners in Safeco Field on Friday night, a 3 1/3-inning, six-run, seven-hit effort that assured the Angels will take a losing record into the All-Star break.
The Angels, who entered the series with a major league-best 17-8 record since June 12, could have moved one game over .500 with a sweep, but the loss dropped them to 44-47 two games before the break.
The Angels haven't had a .500 record since they were 1-1 on April 3, and they were 11 games under (27-38) on June 11. Would reaching .500 have given them an emotional boost entering the second half? Manager Mike Scioscia didn't necessarily think so.
BOX SCORE: Seattle 8, Angels 3
"I think, psychologically, it's like a white elephant," Scioscia said. "You're not really paying attention to it, but it's there. Our challenge is bigger than that. It's to play well enough to make the playoffs. And that's going to take more than a .500 record."
True, but there is some historical significance to a winning record at the break. Only six teams — the 1981 and 1984 Kansas City Royals, the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays, the 1995 New York Yankees and Mariners and the 2003 Minnesota Twins — have made the playoffs after having a losing record at the break.
If the Angels are to join that short list, they'll need Jason Vargas, who had surgery to remove a blood clot in his left armpit in late June, and Tommy Hanson, out since June 26 because of a right forearm strain, to return by the end of July, because Williams isn't cutting it as a starter.
The right-hander who pitched so effectively out of the bullpen in April that fans clamored for him to replace Joe Blanton in the rotation has been rocked for 17 earned runs and 18 hits in eight innings of his last three starts, striking out four and walking six.
"I'm not controlling counts," Williams said. "I fall behind, I have to come into the middle, and I get hit. I've got to be more aggressive in the strike zone instead of trying to be too perfect with that first pitch. It's frustrating."
Williams didn't give the Angels a chance Friday night. Seattle scored in the first (Raul Ibanez run-scoring double) and second (Kyle Seager solo homer) innings and added four in the fourth, a rally that Ibanez, the 41-year-old outfielder, highlighted with a prodigious 438-foot solo homer into the second deck in right field.
Ibanez, the Ancient Mariner who broke into the big leagues in 1996, when Angels phenom Mike Trout was 5, hit his 24th homer of the season in the seventh, giving him 34 homers after turning 40 and 15 homers in 33 games as a 41-year-old. Ibanez also has a .328 career average (176 for 537) with 23 homers and 93 RBIs against the Angels.
"I don't care what number is next to his age — his bat speed is terrific and his swing looks good, especially against us," Scioscia said. "He's always been a good fastball hitter, and right now he's not missing them."
Kendrys Morales followed Ibanez's seventh-inning shot with a homer for an 8-0 lead. Seattle starter Joe Saunders blanked his old club on five hits in seven innings, striking out five and walking two, to improve to 8-8 and drop the Angels to 10-14 against left-handed starters.
The huge cushion allowed the Mariners to easily absorb a three-run eighth that featured Trout's RBI triple and Albert Pujols' RBI single.