When the Angels inked slugger Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract over the winter, they vaulted to the top of many World Series favorites lists.
How, then, does the club explain its fourth-place standing in the American League West?
"We have a lot of issues with our core star players playing their best and being healthy," said southpaw starter C.J. Wilson. "We've had guys either miss a significant amount of time or not play as well as we'd expect them to play. From the guys we expect to count on, we have to get production -- and also stay healthy. Everything has to go right, and we've had enough things go wrong that it's been an uphill battle from the beginning."
The Angels are closer to last place in the division than they are to first, and they trail the Mariners, who are on pace to log their first winning record against AL West foes since 2009.
Anaheim, meanwhile, is headed for its fifth consecutive season without a playoff berth. This disappointment might be the most difficult to solve.
"The way we'll look at this offseason is we have a lot of components to this team that have struggled, but there's a championship core there," said general manager Jerry Dipoto. "And now we have to figure out, amongst ourselves as we collaborate throughout the offseason, what are the moves that we can make that will improve this?"
Manager Mike Scioscia said that "frustrating" is one word that sums up this season.
"It's frustrating on a number of fronts," Scioscia said. "We definitely feel some of the things that are important for us to move forward with are in place, and hopefully we're going to keep developing in this last month and then into next season. We have a lot of work ahead of us this month."
That work begins Saturday, when the Angels will look to hand 23-year-old Erasmo Ramirez his first loss of the season. The righty is 4-0 with a 5.94 ERA in seven outings (six starts). He is coming off of his best start, as he held the Rangers to two runs (one earned) on four hits over seven frames on Sunday.
"He was throwing more strikes; he was down in the zone," said Seattle bench coach Robby Thompson. "It was a big outing for him."
For the Angels, Jason Vargas (6-5, 3.92 ERA) will face his former team for the third time this season. In his first two outings against the Mariners, he posted a 1-1 record and 2.40 ERA, having allowed four runs on 10 hits over 15 frames.
Angels: Trout returns
Outfielder Mike Trout batted third and served as the team's designated hitter on Friday. He missed the previous three games with a tight right hamstring, but he felt fine after running the bases on Friday afternoon.
"I wanted to get back," Trout said. "I don't like sitting on the bench. Not what I want to do."
• The club recalled reliever Cory Rasmus on Friday and designated right-hander Billy Buckner for assignment. The Angels acquired Rasmus from the Braves prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He posted a 2.79 ERA in nine appearances for Triple-A Salt Lake since the trade.
Mariners: Zunino on the mend
Rookie backstop Mike Zunino is hopeful that he will soon return to a big league field. The 22-year-old has been shelved since July 26 with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. Zunino batted .242 in 29 games for the Mariners before suffering the injury.
"I'm hearing really good things," said general manager Jack Zduriencik. "I know he feels well and is looking forward to seeing how it goes taking batting practice this week. It's a progression. Right now he's on schedule or ahead. I do expect him to certainly be with us in September at the latest."
• There is still no timetable for the return of Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who has been sidelined since he hyperextended his left knee on Aug. 5.
• The Mariners have supported Ramirez with an average of 5.7 runs in his six starts.
• Hamilton has multiple hits in 10 of his last 23 starts.