SEATTLE -- It was an evening littered with missed opportunities for the Angels.
They squandered multiple early scoring chances against left-hander Marco Gonzales and fell to the Mariners, 4-1, on Thursday night at Safeco Field. More broadly, they couldn't take advantage of an opportunity to gain some ground on Seattle in the American League Wild Card race.
By dropping two of three games this series, the Angels fell to 12 games behind the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot, a daunting position to be in with less than a month to go until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The AL West rivals are set to play six more times this month, setting up a crucial stretch for the Angels (44-44), who have lost nine of their last 12 games to fall back to .500.
"We need to do some things better on the field," Halos manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's what we're going to focus on. We're working hard at it. I think that when we do, you're going to see us put the wins up like we can. Until we do that, we're going to be a little hit or miss. I think we know what we need to work on, and we're going to keep working toward that."
The Angels mustered six hits, going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and leaving nine men on base. Kole Calhoun produced their only run of the night with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning.
"Any time you have opportunities like that, you want to take advantage of them," Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "Not very often are we going to come up empty-handed. Today was tough, but we stayed in the game and kept fighting. They just kind of pulled away from us a little bit."
Rookie Jaime Barria took the loss after giving up two runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings. The Angels initially planned to skip Barria's turn during this series to deploy their top three starters -- Andrew Heaney, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs -- against the Mariners, but Barria was pressed into action after Skaggs landed on the disabled list on Wednesday with a right adductor strain. Barria said he learned he would be starting after throwing his bullpen session on Wednesday.
"It changed the plan a little bit," Barria said in Spanish. "I always throw my bullpen two days before my starts, but I only had one day this time. But I came out to compete, like I always do."
The Angels tested Gonzales early, but they struggled to capitalize. David Fletcher opened the game with a walk and advanced to second on a single by Andrelton Simmons, but Michael Trout struck out on a called third strike by home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger. Trout was visibly unhappy with the call, as the pitch appeared to be off the plate.
Justin Upton then drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases with one out, but Jose Pujols grounded into a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.
In the second, the Angels put runners on first and second with one out after Kinsler reached on an error and Martin Maldonado singled, but Gonzales struck out Calhoun and Fletcher swinging to escape the jam.
"There's no doubt, early in the game, we had a lot of guys in scoring position," Scioscia said. "Give Gonzales some credit. He made some pitches."
The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the third after Guillermo Heredia doubled and scored on Dee Gordon's RBI single, but the Angels came back to tie it in the fourth. After Kinsler and Maldonado delivered back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with one out, Calhoun lifted a fly ball to deep center field to score Kinsler from third, tying the game at 1.
The Angels' frustrations at the plate came to a head in the fifth, when Trout took another called third strike from Ripperger that appeared to be outside. Trout vehemently protested the call, a rare outburst from a player who has never been ejected from a game in his career.
"Mike never argues," Scioscia said. "I haven't seen the pitches, but I guarantee you that he doesn't argue without merit. That's for sure."
Added Trout: "I didn't like the call, obviously. It is what it is."
Seattle went ahead, 2-1, after Ben Gamel walked and scored on Heredia's RBI double in the fifth.
In the sixth, Barria yielded a leadoff single to Jean Segura and a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, prompting Scioscia to lift him in favor of left-hander Jose Alvarez. After Alvarez retired Kyle Seager on a forceout, Scioscia brought in Miguel Almonte to face Ryon Healy in his Angels debut.
Almonte struck out Healy swinging to end the inning, but he then surrendered a solo home run to Chris Herrmann in the seventh that made it 3-1. Seattle later added an insurance run on Segura's RBI single.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Halos can't break through: The Angels had a rally going in the eighth after Upton walked and Pujols singled to put runners on first and second with one out. Shohei Ohtani was available off the bench, but Scioscia decided to send up Luis Valbuena to pinch-hit against Mariners reliever Alex Colome. Valbuena struck out for the second out of the inning. That brought up Kinsler, who smoked a ball toward center field, but Gordon made an incredible leaping catch to rob him of a hit and end the inning.
"It's a very difficult play," Kinsler said. "That ball was kind of floating in the air. He mistimed his jump a little bit, so that's what caused him to really stretch out like that. ... He had to kind of adjust in the air. It was very, very impressive."
Ohtani, who was on deck to hit for Maldonado in the eighth, led off the ninth, but he struck out swinging against Mariners closer Edwin Diaz.
"We were looking at putting Ohtani in a spot where Maldonado was to see if the inning got to that spot," Scioscia said. "We didn't have enough players to really make a lot of those moves that we were looking at. Valbuena for [Jefry] Marte was a good change, and then we had Shohei for however the inning went. Kinsler lines out, [but] if that ball goes in there, we've got Shohei up trying to put us ahead."
The Angels will return to Southern California to face the Dodgers in the annual Freeway Series on Friday night at 7:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. Halos right-hander Felix Pena (1-0, 3.71 ERA) will oppose righty Kenta Maeda (5-5, 3.36) in the series opener. Pena, a converted reliever, is 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA in his first three starts for the Angels. He worked three scoreless innings over two relief appearances against the Dodgers last season while pitching for the Cubs.