SEATTLE — If it gets worse than this for the Seattle Mariners, then look out. On Monday, even the weather and their own ballpark seemed to conspire against them in a 7-2 loss to the New York Yankees.
Felix Hernandez didn’t even make it through the fifth inning, a five-run fifth inning, despite powering through the first three frames in a mere 21 pitches.
Mark Teixeira delivered the decisive punch with a grand slam, but Hernandez also issued five walks in a stunning meltdown that saw him throw 64 pitches in the fourth and fifth innings.
“That was a home run ball (to Teixeira),” Hernandez said. “I was trying to go sinker, and it just stayed in the middle of the plate. When you make a mistake after you fall behind, that’s when you pay for it.”
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The Yankees, certainly. Start with that. But Hernandez was never the same after a rainstorm wet down the field, specifically the mound, before the Safeco Field roof could close in the bottom of the third inning.
He refused to use it as an excuse.
“Yeah, I was kicking dirt out of my cleats,” Hernandez said. “But you know what? It’s not that. It’s just one of those days. It’s on me.”
Neither the rain nor anything else — least of all the Mariners — did much to bother New York right-hander Michael Pineda, the one-time Mariner facing his former club for the first time.
“He was pretty good,” right fielder Nelson Cruz said. “I remember facing him last year, and he wasn’t like today. He threw a good cutter more than anything else.”
Pineda (7-2) overmatched the Mariners’ increasingly feeble attack (VIDEO LINK) through six shutout innings before hitting a wall in a two-run seventh. Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Chasen Shreve closed out the victory.
“I always worry about guys coming back to face their old team for the first time,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, “but he handled it pretty well.”
In contrast, Hernandez (8-2) gave up seven runs on six hits and five walks in 4 2/3 innings. His ERA spiked from 1.91 to 2.63. And despite what he said, he certainly appeared ruffled by the soft mound.
Consider: Hernandez breezed through the first inning in six pitches, the second in nine pitches and needed just six more in the third inning. He retired all nine batters without the ball leaving the infield.
The rains started as the Mariners were batting in the third, and the Safeco roof began cranking shut. The process, the Mariners said, takes at least 12 minutes and can take up to 17 minutes.
It wasn’t fast enough to prevent an abdication that sent the Mariners (24-27) to a third straight defeat.
Hernandez began the fourth by yielding a single to Brett Gardner of a slicing drive to left.
Then it got messy in a hurry as Hernandez fought a losing battle with the soft mound. He called for a flat stick, at one point, to help pry the mud from his spikes. It didn’t seem to help.
Chase Headley punched a single to center and Gardner, running on the 3-2 pitch, reached third. A wild pitch scored Gardner and moved Headley to second.
Hernandez then loaded the bases by walking Alex Rodriguez and Teixeira. The Yankees got another run on Brian McCann’s double-play grounder to second.
After still another walk, his third of the inning, Hernandez retired Didi Gregorius on a grounder to first. A 31-pitch inning…after working the first three in just 21.
“There was nothing wrong with the mound,” manager Lloyd McClendon insisted. “Pineda didn’t have any trouble with the mound. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses, say the mound is the reason he didn’t pitch well.
“He lost his command.”
Hernandez’s struggles deepened in the fifth inning, which he began by walking Stephen Drew, a .156 hitter, after being ahead 1-2 in the count. Ramon Flores, a .125 hitter, followed with a single to right.
After a walk to Gardner loaded the bases with no outs, Headley’s soft liner to left scored Drew for a 3-0 lead. Rodriguez’s single through the left side reloaded the bases.
Hernandez fell behind Teixeira before floating a 2-0 cookie — a sinker that didn’t sink. Teixeira sent a 407-foot rocket to right for a grand slam and a 7-0 lead.
“That was a home run ball,” Hernandez said. “I was trying to go sinker, and it just stayed in the middle of the plate. When you make a mistake after you fall behind, that’s when you pay for it.”