The 100th victory will have to wait for another start for Felix Hernandez. The Mariners ace remains stuck at 99 wins after failing to notch a win on Thursday night.
Even more galling to Hernandez than failing to reach the career milestone is the fact that the Mariners dropped their third straight game at home with a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field
As the staff ace, Hernandez takes a lot of pride in being the losing streak stopper. It’s what front line pitchers do. And after a pair of grotesque losses to the Houston Astros, the Mariners (4-7) could use one of those starts from Hernandez that might restore fans’ suddenly dwindling faith in the team.
“I just wanted to win tonight,” he said.
Instead, Hernandez was solid but not spectacular and the Mariners lost again.
He notched his 1,500th career strikeout, but the milestone wasn’t celebrated.
“Nope, we lost,” he said.
Even worse, they lost their second outfielder in as many days with an injury.
On a frigid night where joints and digits were bone cold, outfielder Michael Morse was struck on the right hand by a 95 mph fastball from Tanner Scheppers in the seventh inning on what was ruled a foul ball. After being checked by the trainer’s he stayed in and was hit in the shoulder by another 95 mph fastball from Scheppers on the next pitch.
When Morse got to first base, the hand had swelled so much he couldn’t get his batting glove off and he was forced to leave the game. Not exactly what the Mariners wanted to see after having to put Michael Saunders on the 15-day disabled list with sprained shoulder.
“It’s a non-displaced fracture in his hand,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He’ll be out three to seven days.”
The fracture is actually on the pinky finger of Morse’s hand and all things considered it could have been much worse.
“I feel fine,” he said. “I’ve had a lot worse things than this. It’s just one of those freakish things. It’s just my pinky so I’m not too worried about it.”
Morse said he hopes to play as soon as Sunday.
“I want to get in there,” he said. “We already have Saunders missing quite a while. I’m going to rehab this as best as I can really quick. And I might have to play through some pain.”
And getting hit by the pitch?
“Crazy game,” he said.
It was crazy and frustrating for the Mariners.
Seattle went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They simply didn’t get the hits when needed.
Franklin Gutierrez led off the game with a solo homer off of rookie Justin Grimm, who was making his first start of his career. Gutierrez also drove in another run in the second inning with a fielder’s choice. But the multitude of other runners against Grimm in his four innings of work never amounted to anything more.
Meanwhile the Mariners were able to get Hernandez more than most teams have done.
A.J. Pierzynski led off the second inning with a solo home run.“Bad pitch, right down the middle,” Hernandez said.
An error by Raul Ibanez in left field led to another run in the inning.
Texas tacked on two more in the fifth inning off of Hernandez on run scoring hits from Nelson Cruz and David Murphy.
“I was missing my spots by a little bit,” he said. “I was a little bit off.”
Hernandez pitched 6 2/3 innings giving up four runs on 10 hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
“I thought he was sharper today than his last outing, I thought he had better stuff,” Wedge said. “He just left a couple pitches up. We took him as long as we could take him.”
Down 4-2, the Mariners crawled back in the game. They scored a run in the eighth. Justin Smoak led off with a single and Jesus Montero doubled and Robert Andino scored Smoak on a fielder’s choice. Seattle went for the tie as Wedge called on a suicide squeeze bunt from Brendan Ryan with pinch runner Endy Chavez on third base. But Ryan bunted the ball back to pitcher Robbie Ross, who flipped the ball home to get Chavez.
The play was close and Wedge argued that Chavez got in under the tag of Pierzynski, who did an excellent job of blocking the plate.
“Bunting the ball back to the pitcher was the only shot they had to make the play and that’s what happened,” Wedge said.
The other crucial missed opportunity came in the seventh after Morse got hit. Raul Ibanez came up with bases loaded to face the lefty Ross. Wedge elected to stay with Ibanez instead of pinch hitting and the veteran struck out.
“It’s frustrating,” Ibanez said. “I chased a couple of pitches out of the zone. I didn’t get it done.”