Bad, bad weekend for the Mariners

The only way this could have been worse is if the Mariners had been swept by the Padres. Both the games they lost were very winnable, especially today's, when the tying and go-ahead runs reached base with no outs in the ninth ... only to be stranded after two pop-ups and a strikeout.

I'm not going to break down the weekend, because I really didn't get to watch much, except for the second half of today's game.

But I will say this.

Everyone keeps talking about how no one is going to run away with the AL West, but don't look now: Today's loss puts the Mariners five back of the Angels, who swept the Dodgers. It doesn't seem like much -- and I don't the the Angels or A's will run away with it, not with their pitiful offenses -- but the M's have been steadily losing ground in the division, and that's not a good sign.

One of the major problems with the Mariners this year has been the performance of the middle of the order. It's been more or less punchless for the better part of the year, given that Jose Vidro, Raul Ibanez and Richie Sexson occupied the 3-4-5 spots for the bulk of the season. Hargrove tried to rectify it by moving each man up one spot, and it worked short term.

But Ibanez and Sexson continued to struggle to drive in runs. Sexson just looks completely lost at the plate -- capped by him taking a fastball thigh high and right down the middle of the plate for his third strikeout on Friday -- and it probably was wise of Hargrove to give him a couple of days of.

Ibanez, I think, is a different story. He has the classic look of a guy who's just plain old, and Jeff Sullivan over at Lookout Landing does a tremendous job of backing up that assertion here. Here's to hoping he's been fighting this back injury all year, and that's the reason for the sudden dropoff. But the words "35-year-old outfielder" and "back spasms" appearing in the same sentence usually doesn't make you real confident that a few days of rest are going to turn things around.

Anyway, maybe they can make some hay on the road against Tampa Bay and Kansas City, but I'm not optimistic. And I guess it's just this general pessimism that has me so bothered. I want to believe that this team can be something. But it just keeps disappointing me.

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