Angels’ bullpen falters late in loss to Mariners

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Here is one undeniable truth about the Angels: Mike Trout is going to be a pleasure to watch this season.

It’s too early to know what to think about the rest of the team, but avoiding a start like the past two seasons will be critical.

The Angels’ primary problem last season was finding a reliable bullpen to keep games close. One game into 2014, it’s the same old thing.

It’s only one game, but it will clearly bear watching as spring eases into summer.

Trout’s two-run, first-inning homer off Felix Hernandez was a brilliant start, but the evening dissolved into a 10-3 season-opening loss to the Seattle Mariners that brought up unhappy memories. Even Angels starter Jered Weaver admitted that he retreated to the clubhouse restroom and threw up during the Mariners’ six-run ninth inning.

That probably had something to do with the fact Weaver was feeling under the weather, but there was no denying that the bullpen let the game get out of hand after Weaver struggled in the seventh.

"These guys are better than they showed tonight," manager Mike Scioscia said later. "They’ve thrown the ball well all spring; they have good arms. It didn’t get done tonight, but they’re better than this."

They’ll have to prove it. The Angels have stumbled through two consecutive subpar Aprils, and they want to avoid a third. But it will depend, in part, on the bullpen, which was the source of so many lost leads and depressing finishes in 2013.

Monday, the Mariners got three scoreless relief innings behind Hernandez, who gave up Trout’s homer and then proceeded to strike out 11. The Angels’ bullpen, meanwhile, was a troubling sight: five hits and six runs over 2 2/3 innings.

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"We saw that it came down to that tonight," Weaver said. "Their bullpen was a little bit better than ours, but what are you going to do?"

It was especially difficult for right-hander Kevin Jepsen, who struck out Mike Zunino and Abraham Almonte to start the ninth before Brad Miller beat out a roller to deep short for an infield single.

A double by Robinson Cano was followed by Justin Smoak’s home run, and a close game suddenly got out of hand.

"On opening night, you always want to have your best game," Jepsen said, "and unfortunately, this might’ve been one of my worst ever."

It was one they’d like to forget, especially after taking a 3-2 lead against Hernandez through six. It seemed like that would be enough.

But Hernandez was tough on them, including Trout.

"Once we got three runs off him, it seemed like he flipped a switch and went into nasty mode," Trout said of Hernandez.

The Angels had no answer. After an impressive spring, this was no way to step into the season.

As Trout said afterward, "It’s only one game, but we can’t have this carry over."