Mariners 5, Angels 0
It had been 85 days since the Angels had tasted the sweet nectar of first place. The Astros had played their part as cupbearer earlier in the day, losing their fifth in a row to bring the two teams into a virtual tie. Facing the mediocre Mariners, the goblet was well within reach. A sippy cup would have served better.
The game started dubiously. Giavotella, playing the part as leadoff man, drew a walk to begin the game. Calhoun grounded a single through the right side, and Trout followed up with a bloop single in front of that defensive stalwart, Nelson Cruz. Bases loaded nobody out...what a tease. Albert Pujols had a terrible at bat and struck out. Aybar grounded into a force out, Giavotella getting thrown out at home. And then Cruz made me feel foolish for mocking him by diving and snagging a sinking liner off the bat of Freese. Hey, at least the Angels made Iwakuma throw 23 pitches.
CJ Wilson looked dominant in the first inning, but then gave the Mariners the same opportunity the Angels had an inning earlier by loading the bases with nobody out in the second. This happened when he walked Mark Trumbo. HE WALKED MARK TRUMBO. Not only was this a sure sign of the apocalypse, but it was also a sign that the Nibbler was out in all his glory. After walking in a run, a sacrifice fly made it 2 - 0 Mariners. Worse, Iwakuma had settled into a rhythm and began looking like the guy who dominated the Angels up until this season.
As it turned out, CJ was less The Nibbler tonight than he was devoid of any control or command whatsoever. He walked four, he threw many balls in the dirt, he even hit Robinson Cano in the head. But he managed to dance around enough trouble that it was only a 3-0 game when Wilson handed the ball to the bullpen with no one on and two out in the 7th. It didn't matter. Mike Morin did his best Drew Barrymore impression by assembling some kindling, squirting some lighter fluid, and tossing a match on the whole mess. By the time the pen was done roasting marshmallows, it was 5-0. As if Sisyphus needed a bigger rock.
Remember those 23 pitches Iwakuma threw in the first inning? He only needed 78 to the get through the next seven innings. Mark Lowe finished off the shutout in the ninth. After the way they hit, I couldn't even muster much indignation at the terrible call on Pujols' ninth inning strikeout.
It felt like the game had the potential to go this way after the Angels wasted the promise of the first inning. Still, the Astros are fading, and the Angels have plenty of time to take their place atop the division. There's one more game before the All Star break to drink from that chalice and take that crown. But if it has to wait a few days, we can be patient. I doubt the cup will runneth over in the meantime.