"Strained oblique" are two of the cruelest words in baseball. It is an injury that rarely permits a quick recovery and typically forces the player to miss at least a month and often longer.
Rookie right fielder Mitch Haniger suffered a strained right oblique Tuesday (VIDEO LINK) on a swing in the third inning of what was already turning into a shambles for the Mariners in a 19-9 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
"Dead arm" can mean a lot of things. That’s how manager Scott Servais explained Felix Hernandez’s exit after just two innings. It’s a shoulder problem, severity to be determined.
So a pretty rotten night.
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"As a player," second baseman Robinson Cano said, "the (result of) the game doesn’t really matter when you lose two guys. Haniger has been our best hitter all year, and then your No. 1 starter (in Hernandez).
"Those are guys you don’t want to lose. We know we lost the game. They beat us. Right now, you’re not thinking about the game. You’re hoping things don’t get worse with Felix and Haniger."
The Mariners confirmed Haniger’s injury shortly after he left the game but did not comment on its severity. Oblique strains often don’t initially appear serious, but the recovery period almost always lingers.
"Hopefully, it’s a quick return and not too big of a setback," Haniger said. "It just grabbed at my side. I’ve never had a history with this. I don’t have issues as far as soft-tissue stuff goes.
"The day after that guys (have) this type of injury is the biggest teller. The next day, the first 24 hours. So (on Wednesday) I think we’ll have a better idea of what the plan is."
Hernandez chose not to talk after the game — a rarity for him, which suggests he’s unusually upset at the injury. Servais said both players are "probably" going to head back to Seattle for further evaluations.
"Felix had some tightness in his shoulder when he went out for the second inning," Servais said. "It’s kind of like a dead-arm situation. We’re going to have him checked out by doctors as well."
It was an encouraging start. Jean Segura returned from the disabled list by whacking Jordan Zimmermann’s first-pitch fastball to left for single.
Segura moved to second on Haniger’s bunt single, and both runners moved up on Cano’s fly to left. Nelson Cruz’s fly to deep right produced a 1-0 lead before Taylor Motter drove an RBI single to left.
So two quick runs for Hernandez.
Hernandez gave one run back in a shaky first inning but held the lead by stranding runners at second and third when Alex Avila took a third strike.
It was a short reprieve.
Jim Adduci opened the Detroit second with a single, and James McCann (VIDEO LINK) followed by turning on a 1-2 fastball for a 366-foot homer to right.
The Tigers led 3-2, and they weren’t done.
Ian Kinsler and Tyler Collins produced successive one-out singles, which put runners on first and third. Hernandez then bounced a run-scoring wild pitch past catcher Mike Zunino.
By then, Chris Heston was throwing in the bullpen.
Hernandez finished the inning but, after Haniger’s injury in the top of the third, the Mariners replaced Hernandez with Heston.
That didn’t go at all well.
Heston worked around two singles in the third inning before giving up three runs in the fourth on back-to-back homers by Justin Upton and Avila. That pushed the lead to 7-2.
The Mariners answered in the fifth with their own back-to-back homers, by Segura (VIDEO LINK) and Danny Valencia, but the Tigers never blinked. They chased Heston and also beat up Evan Marshall for nine runs later in the inning.
And so on. The Tigers finished with 24 hits.
Expect a series of roster moves prior to Wednesday’s game: a replacement for Haniger and one or two fresh bullpen arms. Maybe more.
Haniger has been the Mariners’ best player in what has been a rocky first three weeks to the 2017 season. He was batting .338 through 21 games while leading the club in runs and RBIs.
After lining a two-out single into center, Haniger clearly grimaced as he ran to first base. The pain apparently intensified when he subsequently had to dive back into first base after a pickoff attempt.
First-base coach Casey Candaele signaled to the dugout, which brought trainer Rob Nodine and manager Scott Servais onto the field. Shortly thereafter, Haniger left the field, replaced by Valencia.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Left fielder Guillermo Heredia saved Hernandez from more damage (VIDEO LINK) in the first inning by making a diving catch on Tyler Collins’ sinking liner.
PLUS: Yes, there were a few. Segura had two hits in his first game since suffering a strained right hamstring on April 10…Cruz had a homer and two singles in addition to his sacrifice fly…Valencia had his best swing of the season, a no-doubt homer to left in his first at-bat after replacing Haniger.
MINUS: Hernandez had his worst start of the year in giving up four runs and six hits in two innings. He also walked two after issuing just one walk in 24 2/3 innings over his four previous starts…Heston and Marshall got shellacked. Both are candidates for the I-5 shuttle to Triple-A Tacoma…Evan Scribner took a beating, too, but he’s out of options…catcher Mike Zunino missed a tag at the plate that could have ended the nine-run fifth inning after six runs.
STAT PACK: Zimmermann gave up five runs and 11 hits, including three home runs, in six innings — and departed with an 11-run lead.
QUOTABLE: Servais on Hernandez: "There was no pain or anything like that. Just nothing was coming out, and he didn’t feel good. Anytime it’s a pitcher and a shoulder, you’re concerned."
SHORT HOPS: The nine runs allowed in the fifth fell two shy of the club record. The Mariners allowed 11 runs in the sixth inning on Sept, 15, 1983 at Chicago; in the ninth inning on July 20, 1984 vs. Toronto; in the eighth inning on May 28, 2000 vs. Tampa Bay; and in the fourth inning on April 18, 2000 vs. Chicago.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners