ANAHEIM -- Felix Pena endured the worst outing of his nascent starting career on Sunday afternoon, yielding seven runs while failing to get out of the first inning in the Angels' 8-5 loss to the Mariners at Angel Stadium.Pena, a converted reliever, had logged a 2.73 ERA since joining the
ANAHEIM -- Felix Pena endured the worst outing of his nascent starting career on Sunday afternoon, yielding seven runs while failing to get out of the first inning in the Angels' 8-5 loss to the Mariners at Angel Stadium.
Pena, a converted reliever, had logged a 2.73 ERA since joining the Angels' rotation on June 19, but his seventh career start did not go as well as his previous six. He retired only one of the nine batters he faced in the first inning, sinking the Angels into a 7-0 hole before they even had a chance to bat.
"It was just one of those days where things don't go your way," Pena said.
Despite the early deficit, the Angels' offense managed to claw back into the game behind Justin Upton's two-run home run off left-hander Marco Gonzales in the fifth and a three-run seventh. Gonzales exited after six innings and turned a six-run lead over to his bullpen, but the Angels staged an uprising against Nick Vincent, who surrendered RBI singles to Upton and Jose Pujols that trimmed the Mariners' lead to 8-4.
With runners on the corners and one out, Andrelton Simmons then drove a fly ball to deep left-center field, but Denard Span made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Simmons of a three-run home run that would have brought the Angels within one. Simmons had to instead settle for a sacrifice fly that made it 8-5.
"That's a momentum-changer right there," manager Mike Scioscia said. "If that ball goes out of the park, we're knocking at the door."
Added Simmons: "I knew I hit it to the wrong side of the field, because that's one of the deepest areas. I knew I hit it well. When he was jumping, I knew it had a chance, but I was just hoping for it to fall somehow. He made a good play. We were a couple inches away from a different result."
Mariners manager Scott Servais subsequently brought in Juan Nicasio to face Ian Kinsler, who flew out to center field to end the inning.
Upton went 3-for-5 with three RBIs to stay hot for the Angels. He is now batting .373 with four home runs and 13 RBIs over his last 14 games. With the loss, the Angels dropped to 54-53 and saw their four-game winning streak snapped. They are nine games behind the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card spot heading into Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Pena's erratic outing put a major strain on the Angels' bullpen, but Jim Johnson, Cam Bedrosian, Jose Alvarez, Richard Parker, Justin Anderson and Hansel Robles combined to hold the Mariners to one run over 8 2/3 innings.
"Going into the game, we really had only five innings of bullpen," Scioscia said. "[Pitching coach] Charlie [Nagy] and [bullpen coach Scott Radinsky] stretched it to get us to where we could at least stay in the game and have a chance. The guys in the bullpen stepped up and did a good job for us to even give us an opportunity. But obviously the damage was done in the first."
Dee Gordon led off the game with a first-pitch single to center field, beginning a string of four consecutive hits for the Mariners. After stealing second, Gordon scored on Jean Segura's RBI single to left field to put Seattle on the board. Upton then attempted to make a sliding catch in left field on a fly ball off the bat of Span, but he couldn't come up with it, allowing the ball to roll past him for an RBI double.
Nelson Cruz knocked in another run with a single up the middle, and Mitch Haniger walked before Pena managed to strike out Kyle Seager swinging for the first out of the inning. But Pena then issued another walk to Ryon Healy to load the bases for Ben Gamel, who ripped an RBI single to right field to extend the Mariners' lead to 4-0.
With the bases still loaded, Pena uncorked a wild pitch during an at-bat against Mike Zunino, allowing Haniger to easily score from third. On his 33rd pitch of the afternoon, Pena yielded an RBI double down the third-base line to Zunino, prompting Scioscia to lift him in favor of Johnson, who retired Gordon and Segura on a pair of groundouts to finally end the 25-minute half inning.
"It was night and day from what we had seen in his last starts," Scioscia said. "Usually he's around the zone, has good life, uses all his pitches. He never got comfortable in the game. He was missing spots, and those guys got good looks at him, obviously."
The Angels have not had a position player pitch in a game since June 17, 1993, the longest drought in baseball. Scioscia said that streak would have likely ended on Sunday had the Angels not come back to make it close.
"The way the first inning went, I don't know how our bullpen got us to the ninth inning, to be honest with you," Scioscia said. "They stretched it and they did a great job. If we had not gotten back into it, there's no doubt we would have had to go to Plan B and just try to save some of the guys."
Scioscia said catcher Francisco Arcia would have likely been his choice to pitch if the situation had presented itself. Arcia made his first career pitching appearance for Triple-A Salt Lake on June 27, though he gave up five runs over one inning of work.
The Angels will enjoy an off-day on Monday before opening a three-game series against the Rays on Tuesday at 4:10 p.m. PT at Tropicana Field. Left-hander Tyler Skaggs (8-6, 2.62 ERA) will take the mound for the Angels and oppose right-hander Ryne Stanek (1-3, 2.43 ERA). In his last eight outings, Skaggs is 5-2 with a 1.44 ERA. He faced the Rays earlier this season on May 17 at Angel Stadium and took the loss despite allowing one run (a solo home run to former Angels teammate C.J. Cron) over six innings.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.