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June 17, 2007 at 4:40 PM

Angels getting away

Don’t look now, but the Angels are seven games up on the Mariners after thrashing the Dodgers today. I won’t go into the historical rammifications of it all, but let’s just say, things aren’t looking good. It would be different if this team had something to fall back on, like, say, a Felix Hernandez tossing complete games, or two or three starters who could go seven or eight innings more than once every three months.
But I don’t see that happening any time soon. The Mariners held a pitchers’ meeting immediately after the game, reminding them they have to pull things together or the season could get away from them. No, this was not a good finish to the trip. It was terrible, in fact. As “Julio Cruz” pointed out in the comments thread, these were two of the dregs of the National League that the Mariners just dropped five in a row to. This was a disaster. But to suggest that exhaustion had nothing to do with it is being a little too harsh.
This team is spent. I’m really worried about the bullpen, as well. Brandon Morrow got roughed up for a second straight outing and we’ll have to see how he handles that. The only saving grace for the M’s could be the upcoming homestand against more NL pity generators in the Reds and Pirates. But who knows? If the M’s keep playing this way, they won’t beat anybody.
“It’s like a comedy skit,” Ichiro said through an interpreter. “For us, it’s not funny.”
Ichiro had four singles today, giving him 100 hits for the season already. He also has a 13-game hitting streak, but is more concerned about the losing streak.
I asked him whether he’d seen any signs that this five-game losing streak had been looming during what began as a 5-0 trip.
“Of course, but I’m not going to tell you (media) guys,” Ichiro said.
And no, Ichiro said, he isn’t talking about the team wearing down because of 46 games in 48 days.
“It’s something totally different than that,” he said.
Others did chalk this up to the team collapsing under the strain of such a hefty workload.
“I think playing so many games in so many days has finally caught up to us,” southpaw reliever George Sherrill said. “It’s bound to happen. There are just so many days in a row that you can go out there. We’ve had one day off in the last month.”
Mariners closer J.J. Putz agrees the bullpen looks “taxed” and hopes the off-day helps everyone. It was only a few days ago, he noted, that the squad was upbeat and refusing to complain about its travel grind.
“I just think the traveling, the time changes, things like that, being on the road so much, just caught up to us,” Putz said. “I think you’ve got to look at the big picture, not just the last three games here. And in the big picture, we’re still a pretty good ballclub.”
And Putz doesn’t want fans to give up hope.
“It’s not do-or-die,” he said of the pending two-week homestand. “But at the same time I think we’ve got to get back on-track.
“I think the difference between this club this year and last year is…we’ve lost five in a row. Last year, it was real easy for them to just fold. That’s where those 11-game (losing) streaks come in.
“This year, we’ve got the lineup that can slug their way out of a five-game losing streak if the pitchers are a little banged-up and vice-versa. This club’s definitely a lot tougher both physically and mentally.”
We’re about to find out whether or not that’s true. Off to catch my flight to Seattle.

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