SEATTLE — Felix Hernandez claimed a nice consolation prize Sunday amid the disappointment of the Mariners falling short in the bid to reach postseason.
Hernandez won the American League’s ERA crown by pitching 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
Hernandez finished with a career-best 2.14 ERA while going 15-6 in his 34 starts. That allowed him to slip past Chicago lefty Chris Sale, who compiled a 2.17 ERA.
It marks the second ERA crown in Hernandez’s 10-year career. He also won it in 2010, when he posted a 2.27 ERA that, until this season, had been a career best.
Hernandez’s 2.14 ERA is also a club record, breaking his own 2010 record. He is the first Mariners pitcher to lead the league on more than one occasion: Randy Johnson won in 1995, and Freddy Garcia won in 2001.
First baseman Logan Morrison admits it’s a sweet feeling to close out a roller-coaster season by batting over .300 for the final two months.
“It’s very satisfying,” he said. “Injuries. Having to fight to play every day. Finally getting that chance to play every day, and showing what I can do. It’s a good feeling for sure.”
Morrison missed nearly two months after suffering a strained right hamstring prior to an April 14 game at Texas. His average dipped to .164 after going 0-for-3 on June 22 in a 2-1 victory at Kansas City.
“I’m very intrigued by what I see,” McClendon said. “Everyone has always known he’s a talented individual, but he’s never been able to be on the field consistently.”
Morrison had three homers that kept a recent 4-7 trip from becoming a disaster: a three-run shot in the ninth inning on Sept. 18 in a 3-1 victory at Anaheim, and two homers in last Thursday’s 7-5 victory at Toronto.
On Saturday, he erased a 1-0 deficit to the Angels with a RBI double in the seventh inning. The Mariners went on to win 2-1 in 11 innings and keep their postseason hopes alive.
“Having been on a lot of losing teams,” he said, “and out of the playoff race by June, it’s a lot of fun knowing you’re playing for something other than trying to boost your stats.”
But Morrison did just that.
He batted .320 over his last 52 games with six homers and 21 RBIs, a surge that hiked his season totals to 11 homers, 38 RBIs and a .262 average.
Fernando Rodney didn’t pitch in Sunday’s season finale but finished as the first reliever in Mariners’ history to lead the league in saves. In fact, his 48 saves were the most in the majors.
Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel led the National League with 47 saves, while Kansas City’s Greg Holland finished second among AL relievers with 46 saves.
“You come and prepare yourself to pitch every day,” Rodney said. “You get yourself physically and mentally ready. That’s the most important thing. Be ready.
“If you’re ready, and you get the opportunity to close the game, you’ve got to do it.”
How rare was the Mariners’ 2-1 victory over the Angels on Saturday in 11 innings? Well, to start, it was just the Mariners’ second walk-off victory of the season.
That’s the fewest in the majors. Every other club has at least four.
Further, the game ended on a fielder’s-choice grounder by Austin Jackson to second base when the Angels couldn’t turn the double play.
The last time the Mariners won on a fielder’s-choice grounder was July 8, 1989, and the circumstances were similar.
The Mariners had the bases loaded with one out — on Saturday, they had runners at first and third — when Dave Valle hit a grounder to second base against the Indians in the 11th inning of a 3-3 game at the Kingdome.
The Indians tried for a double play, but Valle (like Jackson) beat the throw to first. Henry Cotto scored from third, and the Mariners won 4-3.
The Mariners drew 40,823 for Sunday’s game, which pushed their attendance to 2,063,622 of an average of 25,477 for their 81 home dates.
By comparison, they averaged 21,749 in 2013 while drawing a total of 1,761,661.
This marks their first year at two-million plus since drawing 2,085,630 in 2010, which marked their 15th straight season of topping two million. The club record is 3,540,482 in 2002.
It was 19 years ago Monday — Sept. 29, 1995 — that the Mariners continued their late-season surge by rallying for a 5-4 victory at Texas.
Edgar Martinez and Tino Martinez erased a one-run deficit by hitting back-to-back sacrifice flies in the eighth inning.
Those Mariners trailed the Angels by 12 1/2 games on the morning of Aug. 21 but forced a 163rd game. The Mariners then reached postseason for the first time in franchise history by beating the Angels 9-1.
A long winter. The Mariners open the 2015 schedule at 1:10 p.m. on April 6 against these same Angels at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (15-6 with a 2.14 ERA) figures to make his eighth opening day start. The Angels’ likely will counter with right-hander Jered Weaver (18-9, 3.59) in what would be his seventh opener..