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August 28, 2007 at 10:15 PM

A devastating loss; hear audio

Did the season end here tonight? No. But the division race could be all-but-over by tomorrow afternoon (though I’m sure the Mariners will scream and yell otherwise). Let’s face it: You cannot lose a game like this when you’re trying to catch a team that’s been ahead of you all year.
Seattle led 5-0 after one inning, then lost 10-6. Yes, you can blame second base umpire Jerry Meals for apparently missing the tag applied on that steal attempt by Gary Matthews Jr. with the score tied in the eighth. The Angels scored four after that and it wasn’t pretty.
I asked Yuniesky Betancourt in the clubhouse whether he’d made that tag in time and he assured me that he had. But is that why the M’s wound up losing?
In my book, it didn’t help that the Mariners took that first inning lead, then managed just two more singles before the seventh. They seemed to be sleepwalking by the middle innings. Yes, everything they did is going to look awful under a microscope after tonight. And yes, teams lose games like this at times.
But they are now four back of the Angels. Tomorrow is a must-win just to stay in the division race. Seattle is still a game up in the wild-card hunt and will have to reverse this four-game losing streak in a hurry to maintain that reality. Who’s to blame for this? A long list. Yes, I’m ready to see Ben Broussard in there tomorrow. I think Richie Sexson has to do more than this to play six games a week. I’m not calling for a strict platoon, here. But another day off couldn’t hurt at this stage.
I asked John McLaren about his decision to pitch to Vladimir Guerrero in the seventh with first base open. Guerrero drilled a double off Sean Green that put the Angels ahead for the first time. Though the M’s would tie it in the bottom of the inning, that Guerrero hit, to me, was huge because it capped the Angels’ comeback and put Seattle on its heels the rest of the way.
McLaren didn’t do the safe thing by walking Guerrero and paid for it. He was banking on Guerrero being 0-for-4 career-wise off Green, but that’s a limited sample.
“We know what kind of a hitter he is, we know he’s an animal,” McLaren said. “We just thought with his (Green’s) sinker and his breaking ball away, we would take our shot there.”
He’d also banked on Eric O’Flaherty being able to strike out Garret Anderson with first base open in the fifth. Instead, Anderson, who’d been 0-for-5 off O’Flaherty coming in, hit an 0-2 pitch for a tying sacrifice fly to left.
“We didn’t make some pitches tonight when we had to,” McLaren said. “That sums it up pretty much right there. We just did not make some pitches all the way through the game.”
No, they did not. McLaren did not have his finest game as manager either. He played with fire, usimng young relievers, and got burned.
Hear his audio right here.
I’m not as down on Rick White as some of you are. I thought he got the broken bat grounder he needed from Vladimir Guerrero with the bases juiced in the eighth inning. But the ball got through for two runs and the game was over at that point.
The clubhouse, predictably, was very quiet afterwards. I didn’t stick around for Jeff Weaver, who was taking his time getting out there. McLaren told us Weaver was peaved at some calls he wasn’t getting, but that’s no excuse. He came apart in a big hurry.
Yes, we keep writing about must-win games and they’re all important. But lose this game tomorrow afternoon and the M’s can forget about the AL West this year. I’m serious. If you want to argue that they can overcome a five-game deficit with a month to go against a team with two starters aiming for 20 wins and a Cy Young Award, get back to me Oct. 1 once they’ve actually done it.
Otherwise, get ready to focus on the wild-card race. This is a must-win game. A win leaves Seattle three back and even that won’t be easy. Think the M’s are going to sweep all four games in Anaheim in late-September? You do? Based on what evidence? Their 1-5 record there this season?
This team might not want to admit it right now, but they have to step forward. They have to take that next step. I had a chat with Jose Guillen you can listen to right here about just that topic in the clubhouse after the game. He looked ticked off. But he kept his composure and just kept repeating how good the team is and how it had to come to that realization.
“We can come back from anything, but we just have to believe in ourselves,” Guillen said, shaking his head. “We need to start believing in ourselves. We understand that we’re good enough to do this.
“If we don’t believe in ourselves, if we don’t trust in ourselves..,” he added. “We need to be positive and say ‘Let’s do this!’
“Not just score five runs and forget about it. The other team, they can come back from any deficit.”
So, is this team afraid to reach out and grab that brass ring? Afraid to realize it’s full potential? The M’s would not be the first. Guillen would not go that far.
“We’re all grown up people here,” he said. “But we’ve just got to look in the mirror and realize how good we are.”
Indeed they must. By tomorrow if possible. If not, the Angels will be looking at them in a mirror — a rear view one — all through September.

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