There was no ninth-inning angst this time.
Instead, the Seattle Mariners simply squandered another stellar performance by Felix Hernandez, and they got swept by a team that entered this weekend series at Safeco Field on a six-game losing streak.
But the Los Angeles Angels left Seattle with three consecutive victories, the last one by a score of 3-0 before a crowd of 40,852 on Sunday afternoon.
The sweep was capped by Hector Santiago’s eight-inning, two-hit gem. The 28-year-old lefty didn’t allow Seattle’s first hit until the sixth inning and never allowed a Mariners runner past second base.
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So it didn’t matter that Hernandez, too, was outstanding, or that he struck out nine batters, or that both Hernandez and Mariners manager Scott Servais described the outing as the ace’s best this season.
This was simply another loss, and a particularly discouraging one after Seattle blew ninth-inning leads in the series’ first two games.
“Probably as good of overall stuff as I’ve seen Felix have all year for us,” Servais said. “We needed a good outing from him today. We got it. We just, like I said, couldn’t do much offensively.”
Like he said. The Mariners (21-16) finished with the two hits — Shawn O’Malley’s bunt single leading off the sixth and Chris Iannetta’s sharp single in the seventh — and moved exactly one runner into scoring position.
That was Robinson Cano, who walked with two outs in the fourth before moving to second base when Santiago hit Nelson Cruz with a pitch.
As scoring opportunities go, it wasn’t a great one. Iannetta grounded out to third base to end the fourth. But on this day, it was the closest the Mariners came to scoring a run, save for a pair of deep flyouts by Cano and Cruz in the seventh.
“He pitched a really good game,” Iannetta said of Santiago. “He mixed up pitches and was throwing really hard today. I think his last few starts he was probably 80-91 (mph), today he was probably 91-95. Tip the cap. He did a good job.”
The Angels (16-21) got on the board in the fifth inning when right fielder Kole Calhoun singled to score Johnny Giavotella, who had led off with a double.
Hernandez was in rhythm, too. Prior to Mike Trout’s groundout to end the fifth, Hernandez had recorded eight consecutive outs via strikeouts.
“It was the best game I’ve thrown all year,” he said. “I’ve just got to continue doing that.”
Hernandez didn’t make it out of the eighth inning, though, after walking Calhoun and allowing a single to Trout with one out. Nick Vincent relieved Hernandez and coaxed a groundout from Albert Pujols that advanced each runner one base, then watched as left-fielder Daniel Nava poked a two-run single through the hole at shortstop, with the Mariners shifting their defense against the left-hander.
“He made a good pitch,” catcher Iannetta said. “We got a ground ball. It just happened to find a hole.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Nava’s two-run single in the eighth inning found exactly the right hole against Seattle’s shifted defense.
As Iannetta said: “Couple feet the other way, it’s right to (third baseman Kyle) Seager. He put it in the right spot. Took a defensive swing. Good piece of hitting, and you tip your cap.”
Servais said even if the Mariners hadn’t shifted against the left-handed-hitting Nava, they probably wouldn’t have been in position to make a play on that particular ball.
“You’re typically not going to play a left-hand hitter where he hit that ball, anyway,” Servais said.
PLUS: The Mariners didn’t get no-hit. Hey, that looked like a possibility after five innings. … Hernandez was dominant for a few innings, and his fastball was as good as it has been all season. … O’Malley went 1 for 3 in his 2016 big league debut. … Mike Montgomery pitched a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts.
MINUS: Seattle falls a half-game in back of first-place Texas in the American League West. … Nori Aoki got hit with a pitch on the elbow pad and required attention from trainers afterward, and Iannetta got hit across the hand by an Angels batter’s backswing. Both stayed in the game.
STAT PACK: The Mariners have been two-hit 78 times in their history. Two of those games have come this season. … Cano’s hitting streak was snapped at 13 games.
QUOTABLE: “I thought the Angels came in here and played us very well. We were right in every game. We just didn’t get it done. That’s going to happen. As high as we were earlier in the week, to have it flip on us on the weekend is frustrating. But we’ve played well on the road. We’ll go out with a big trip ahead of us, here with Baltimore and Cincinnati, and we’ll get right back on board again.” — Servais on the series sweep