ARLINGTON, Texas — A game that started off bad got worse and turned into a disaster.
Current pop culture slang would refer to it as “a Dumpster fire.” In reality, it was just a brutal, frustrating loss for the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark.
Very little went right for the Mariners, who were routed by the Texas Rangers, 15-3.
Felix Hernandez was mediocre, the hitting was spotty, defense shaky and the bullpen gave up 10 runs, including eight runs in an interminable eighth inning that lasted 37 minutes that saw Seattle relievers throw 61 pitches.
The Mariners have endured losses by closer meltdowns, routs from the third inning on thanks to weak starting pitching and frustrating finishes in extra-inning marathons. But this loss was something they’ll want to erase from their minds immediately.
“Hopefully everyone forgets about this one quickly as possible,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “You look back, it was 5 to 3 with two outs in the seventh inning.”
But that third out in the seventh inning didn’t come easily. Oliver Perez, who has struggled of late, hung a slider to pinch-hitter Craig Gentry with runners on second and third. Gentry hammered it down the line for a two-run double to make it 7-3 and effectively put the game away.
The loss reached its nadir in the eighth inning when the Rangers scored eight runs off Perez and Charlie Furbush with three infield hits and a fielded ground ball that didn’t result in an out and a booted double-play ball. Nothing went right.
“There were four balls that never left the infield that were just out of reach,” Thompson said. “And the double-play ball was probably the easiest ball of the inning and we didn’t make the play.”
It was so bad Thompson had outfielder Endy Chavez preparing to warm up to pitch if the inning were to continue.
The eight-run eighth was mere window dressing on a game that had an ominous vibe after the second inning when the Rangers continued their hard-hitting ways against Hernandez (12-6), scoring five runs.
There isn’t any real secret to it. Texas hitters wait Hernandez out. They don’t chase borderline pitches. They force him to come into the strike zone. And they never seem to miss his mistakes.
“They do everything,” Hernandez said. “They take a lot of pitches. They have a good approach. I wasn’t able to throw strikes. I was flat and up. And I wasn’t able to get ahead.”
And it’s not just bashers like Adrian Beltre and the recently suspended Nelson Cruz, who do damage against Hernandez.
It’s also ordinary players such as David Murphy, who is hitting .225 this season, but came into the game hitting .324 (23-for-71) with three homers and 14 RBI off Hernandez for his career. And it was Murphy who delivered the big blow in the decisive second inning.
It all started with innocently enough. Seattle had a 2-0 lead, scoring runs in each of the first two innings.
Beltre led off the bottom of the second with a single to center off Hernandez. Alex Rios followed with a single to center and then Hernandez walked Mitch Moreland to load the bases with no outs.
Hernandez came back to strike out Geovany Soto. However, Jurickson Profar hit a soft liner into center field. Dustin Ackley charged but couldn’t quite get there and the ball dropped in for a single. Only one run scored and the bases remained loaded after Ackley got the ball in quickly.
“I got a pretty good jump about as good as I could,” Ackley said. “With Felix on the mound, and you lay out and that ball gets by you, a couple guys are going to score. It was a really in-between ball. I think that was the biggest thing is keep the double play in order.”
Murphy then upped his career average against Hernandez, blasting a double over Ackley’s head and off the wall in center to score two more runs to push it to 3-2. Leonys Martin then squeezed home a run and Elvis Andrus followed with an RBI single through the right side to make it 5-2. Hernandez got two groundball outs to finally end the misery. But the damage was done. The five runs tied a season high allowed in an inning by Hernandez.
“It was mechanics,” Hernandez said. “My front shoulder was opening too much and I was too quick to home plate. That’s what happened.”
Facing a team he needed to be special against, Hernandez was somewhat ordinary. He lasted just five innings, giving up five runs on five hits with five walks and just four strikeouts.
In four starts this season against Texas, Hernandez is 0-3 with a 5.55 ERA. For his career, Hernandez is 12-19 against the Rangers with a 3.94 ERA.
“For the most part that’s a veteran club over there,” Thompson said. “Some teams try to attack him early, other teams try to wait him out. Most of the times, the veteran teams and good offensive clubs try to wait him out and get him behind in the count.”
Seattle trimmed the lead to 5-3 on Kyle Seager’s 19th homer of the season, a solo shot off Rangers starter Martin Perez. But that was all the offense the Mariners would muster. Perez (6-3) pitched seven innings giving up the three runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts.