SEATTLE — A scoring change announced Saturday by Major League Baseball provides Mariners ace Felix Hernandez with a renewed opportunity to win the American League ERA crown.
The change stripped four earned runs away from Hernandez’s line in last Tuesday’s 10-2 loss at Toronto. The net effect was to lower his ERA from 2.34 to 2.18 heading into Sunday’s start against the Angels.
Chicago lefty Chris Sale, who isn’t scheduled to pitch again, is the AL’s current ERA leader at 2.17.
The scoring change, which resulted from an appeal filed by the Mariners, concerned a play in the Blue Jays’ seven-run fifth inning when Hernandez fumbled and dropped an attempted sacrifice bunt by Josh Thole.
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Toronto scorer Herb Morell scored the play as a single. The Blue Jays went on to score seven runs in the inning — all earned and charged to Hernandez.
While Hernandez said, “that’s a play I should make,” he did not request an appeal, according to a club official.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said: “It was an error. It’s a play you should make. It was the right call to make, and it was a pretty simple call when you think about it.”
Hernandez previously won the AL ERA title in 2010 with a 2.27 mark.
The ruling also boosts Hernandez’s case to win the Cy Young Award for the second time in his career. He loomed as a clear favorite before getting hammered for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings in that loss to Toronto.
Hernandez will enter Sunday’s game at 14-6 in 33 starts with 241 strikeouts in 230 2/3 innings. He also leads the American League with 0.936 WHIP (walks and hits to innings pitched).
Hernandez’s two likeliest competitors are Sale and Cleveland right-hander Cory Kluber, who is 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA after pitching eight shutout innings Friday in a 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
Kluber has 269 strikeouts in 235 2/3 innings and a 1.095 WHIP.
Sale finished at 12-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 26 starts after missing five weeks early in the season because of an elbow injury. He has 208 strikeouts in 174 innings and a 0.966 WHIP.
The Cy Young Award is determined through a vote by a panel consisting of two members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America from each chapter in the AL’s 15 cities.
Ballots must be returned prior to the start of postseason play.
PETERSON OPEN TO SWITCH
While D.J. Peterson, the club’s top non-pitching prospect, prefers to remain at third base, he has no problem in shifting to first base — if that’s what the Mariners prefer.
“I played a lot of first base in college,” he said. “It’s a position that I’m acquainted with. I’m very used to it. It wouldn’t be too much of an adjustment.
“I want to play third, like I’ve said from the time I got drafted. But…if they said, `We want you to catch,’ I’d catch. There wouldn’t be any adjustment (in moving to first). I’d go right over.”
Peterson and the organization’s other minor-league award winners were recognized prior to Saturday’s game against the Angels. He shared player-of-the-year honors with outfielder/first baseman Jordy Lara.
The Mariners are expected to take a long look next spring at Peterson, 22, in big-league camp. With All-Star Kyle Seager occupying third base, Peterson’s quickest ticket to the big leagues could be first base.
Peterson was the Mariners’ first-round pick in 2013. He batted a combined .297 this season with 31 homers and 111 RBIs in 123 games at Hi-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “I’ve got to work on my footwork. I’ve got to work on driving the ball to right field and cut down on strikeouts.
“There are a lot of things I need to do physically and mentally to get ready to try to join this team, or make a run at it, next year.”
48 AND COUNTING
All-Star closer Fernando Rodney matched a career high when he got his 48th save in Friday’s 4-3 victory over the Angels. He also had 48 in 2012 at Tampa Bay.
Rodney also became just the sixth pitcher in history to record 48 or more saves in two years. No pitcher had ever done it three times.
The others with two years of 48 or more: Dennis Eckersley, Rod Beck, Mariano Rivera, Eric Gagne and Jim Johnson.
Rodney’s 133 saves over the last three seasons are the most in the American League and trail only Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel (137) among all pitchers.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma appeared fine Saturday after exiting Friday’s game in game in the seventh inning because of concerns that he might have pulled a muscle in his side or back…First baseman Justin Smoak became a father when his wife, Kristin, gave birth Friday to the couple’s first child, a daughter named Sutton Anne. Mother and daughter were reported to be healthy…The Mariners passed two million in home attendance for the first time since 2010. They entered Saturday at 1,990,083 with sufficient pre-sales to be guarantee of topping two million…Friday’s victory enabled the Mariners, with a 10-7 advantage, to clinch winning the season series against the Angels for the first time since 2003…The Mariners’ staff entered Saturday just two strikeouts shy of the club-record 1,297 set a year ago.
It was 11 years ago Sunday — Sept. 28, 2003 — that Jaime Moyer set a franchise record for victories in a season by getting his 21st when the Mariners closed the season with a 9-3 victory over Texas at Safeco Field.
Moyer finished 21-7 with a 3.27 ERA in 33 starts.
Randy Johnson set the previous record with 20 victories in 1997, which Moyer matched in 2001. Those remain the only 20-victory seasons in franchise history.
The Mariners close the regular season at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (14-6 with a 2.18 ERA) will oppose Angels right-hander Cory Rasmus (3-1, 2.38).
Root Sports will televise the game.