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Angels unable to reverse course in series finale

Seattle's sweep sends Halos to 0-3 start for first time since 1992

ANAHEIM -- It's only the first series of the season, and three games out of 162, but the numbers are already frightening …

Angels' bullpen: 12 earned runs in 10 innings.

Angels' offense with runners in scoring position: 1-for-18.

Angels' run-differential: minus-18.

"Seattle came and brought everything," Angels third baseman David Freese said after the 8-2 loss that capped a three-game sweep for the Mariners on Wednesday night. "They pitched, hit and played defense, and we didn't do very much of any of that." 

The Angels were outscored by their up-and-coming division rivals, 26-8, and have now started a season 0-3 for the first time since 1992.

This after posting the fourth-worst April winning percentage from 2012-13.

"You can't compare every year," first baseman Albert Pujols said. "If we would've won this series, everybody would've said, 'Oh, better start than last year.' You can't go by that. You play 162 games for a reason, and you just try to win as many series as you can. Obviously it was pretty tough. They swung the bats pretty well against some of our best pitching." 

Hector Santiago gave up only two runs through the first five innings, but allowed back-to-back singles to start the sixth and was taken out of the game with only 83 pitches. On the very next pitch, Fernando Salas gave up an RBI double to right fielder Stefen Romero. Two pitches after that, catcher Mike Zunino hit a three-run homer to left field to give the Mariners a 6-0 lead and essentially put it out of reach.

Asked why he took his starter out so early, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Santiago had "a little stiffness in his upper back," pointed to his "inability to put the first two hitters away" and talked about "the whole body of work getting up to that point," particularly the seven hits and three walks allowed by the 26-year-old left-hander.

But Santiago, making his Angels debut after coming over in the three-team deal that sent Mark Trumbo to the D-backs, said his back only bothered him a little bit in the fifth and went away completely in the sixth.

He was certainly surprised by the quick hook.

"I looked up and I was like, 'How many pitches?' I thought it was more," Santiago said. "It definitely surprised me, there's no doubt. I was -- I don't want to say upset, but I was definitely shocked and I wasn't happy about it, because I want to be out there, and we want to go as long and deep as we can." 

The Angels are off on Thursday before starting a six-game road trip through Houston and Seattle, and somewhere along the way they'll look to recapture the promise they showed in Spring Training -- when they only lost 11 of 32 games, had the fourth-lowest ERA in the Majors and scored the fourth-most runs.

The Mariners notched 34 hits in the three-game series. Nineteen of them went for extra bases and six of those went over the fence. 

As Santiago said, "They didn't miss a mistake."

"It's definitely something to build on," Zunino said. "We're excited about it, we're playing good baseball, and hopefully we can carry it over."

The Angels countered with 17 hits -- four of which came from Mike Trout -- and struck out 32 times, even though the Mariners were without No. 2 starter and Cy Young finalist Hisashi Iwakuma.   

On Monday, Felix Hernandez gave up three runs (two earned) in six innings. On Tuesday, Erasmo Ramirez pitched seven innings of two-run ball. On Wednesday, lefty James Paxton -- the Mariners' third-best pitching prospect, who solidified a rotation spot with a 1.50 ERA last September -- twirled seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four baserunners.

"All three of their starters spotted up pretty good," Freese said. "They had good game plans, and they executed. That's the key to shut down a good offense, which we know we have."

The belief is still there, but the patience isn't. It shouldn't be, after a 17-32 record the past two Aprils and four straight playoff absences. 

The Angels are relatively healthy, with only relievers Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett on the mend. They have a favorable April schedule, with four days off and just nine games against teams that made the playoffs last year. And they once again have a roster that's supposed to compete for a playoff spot.

Three games in, they're still waiting for that to show itself.

"There's some things that have to fall into place for us, but I think the depth is there and I feel that it will fall into place," Scioscia said. "There's no doubt we're a better offensive team than we've shown this series. That's going to happen. I think on the defensive side we made some really good plays. That's going to be an asset. And on the mound we really were 180 degrees from where we've been all spring working up to this area."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.
Read More: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Hector Santiago, Albert Pujols, David Freese