Felix Hernandez was long but an afterthought in the game’s final moments on Thursday night. He wasn’t a factor in the mess in the seventh or eighth inning. He didn’t get saddled with the loss.
But in most ways, the Mariners’ wild and crushing 10-9 loss to the Los Angeles Angels fell on his shoulders.
And he accepted every ounce of blame. Given eight runs of support and a 7-0 lead in the third inning, the Mariners’ ace and former Cy Young winner couldn’t make the rare run support hold up.
“I just blew the lead,” he said. “It’s all my fault, nobody else, just me.”
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In a season filled with losses that were the equivalent to a punch in the stomach, the loss to the Angels on Thursday might have been the most painful. It could even be a knockout shot for a somewhat punch-drunk Mariners team that has an anemic offensive, an inconsistent bullpen and injuries everywhere.
The Mariners finally scored runs, and plenty of them, and the guy they trust the most couldn't lead them to a win. If not now, then when?
“He just had a bad day,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s human. Every now and then again, you see that he is human. This is the big leagues and he just had a bad day.”
And it’s true. It’s so odd seeing Hernandez seem hittable. But he was from almost the very beginning.
He had little, if any, command with his fastball. It was up in the strike zone, and when it wasn’t up, it was bouncing in front of the plate.
“When he is really good, he stays in his deliver, his arm slot is consistent and his release point is consistent, he was kind of all over the place with that today,” Wedge said.
For once run support wasn’t an issue. The Mariners scored eight runs in four innings on the night. In their previous four games on the road trip, the Mariners scored a combined eight runs.
It started from the very beginning. Seattle scored three runs in the first inning as Endy Chavez led off the game with a lead-off double and Nick Franklin doubled him home moments later. Kyle Seager punctuated the inning by blasting a two-run homer to right field. It was his ninth home run of the season.
The Mariners chased Hanson in the third inning, scoring four more runs off him with Kendrys Morales delivering a big RBI single.
After three innings, Hernandez had a 7-0 lead to work with. That should have been plenty.
Only it wasn’t.
He gave up what seemed like inconsequential run in the third inning, followed by another in the fourth, but still had an 8-2 lead.
But the start fell apart in the fifth inning. Peter Bourjos led off the inning with solo homer to center. The Angels then six more hits, scoring four more runs, highlighted by a three-run homer from Mark Trumbo on a hanging curveball to cut the lead to 8-7. Hernandez gave up a total of seven hits in the inning. It’s the most hits he’s ever given up in one inning in his career.
Did the long breaks on the bench when the Mariners were scoring all their early runs affect his rhythm.
"I was fine," he said. "No excuses. It's my fault."
Hernandez was done after the fifth inning, having given up seven runs (six earned) on 12 hits with two strikeouts.
Wedge was forced to go to his bullpen. They offered only a modicum of relief.
The Angels tied the game, 8-8, in the sixth off of Danny Farquhar on an RBI single from Pujols.
Seattle showed a little moxie, retaking the lead in the eighth inning. Brendan Ryan drew a lead off walk and later scored on Seager’s fourth hit of the night – a double to right. For the night Seager finished 4-for-5 with a homer and two doubles.
But the Mariners bullpen again gave it up.
Set-up man Carter Capps was brought in to start the eighth inning and promptly gave up a lead-off single to Bourjos. The speedy Bourjos promptly stole second and then advanced to third on Henry Blanco’s throwing error. He scored moments later on Erick Aybar’s single to left. Mike Trout followed with a single – his fourth hit of the night – to put Aybar at third. Wedge called on Yoervis Medina to figure out a way out of the jam. Pujols hit a hard ground ball to a drawn-in infield. Nick Franklin made a heady play, firing to third to get Aybar caught in a run down and later tagged out.
With the runners moving up to second and third with one out, Wedge had Medina walk Trumbo to load the bases. The move almost paid off. Howie Kendrick hit a rocked to the left side of the field. Shortstop Brendan Ryan made an impossible diving stop and fired to home from his knees to get Trout.
Just when it looked as though Medina and the Mariners might escape with the game tied, he walked Alberto Callaspo on four pitches to force in what would be the game-winning run.
Angels closer Ernesto Frieri shut the Mariners down 1-2-3 in the ninth to save the improbable win.