ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Felix Hernandez was long but an afterthought in the game’s final moments Thursday night. He wasn’t a factor in the mess in the seventh or eighth innings. 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 2010 Cy Young winner couldn’t make the rare run support hold up.
“I just blew the lead,” Hernandez said. “It’s all my fault, nobody else, just me.”
In a season filled with losses that were the equivalent to a punch in the stomach, this loss to the Angels might have been the most painful.
The Mariners finally scored runs, and plenty of them, and the guy they trust the most couldn’t turn that rare support into a victory.
“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 delivery, 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 over four innings. In their previous four games on the road trip, they scored a combined eight runs.
Seattle scored three runs in the first inning as Endy Chavez led off with a double and Nick Franklin, the next batter, singled him home. Kyle Seager punctuated the inning by blasting a two-run homer to right field, his ninth homer of the season.
The Mariners chased Angels starter Tommy Hanson in the third inning, scoring three more runs off him with Kendrys Morales delivering a big RBI single. A fourth run scored in the inning on a fielder’s choice.
Heading into the bottom of the third inning, Hernandez had a 7-0 lead. That should have been plenty for the Mariners ace.
He gave up what seemed like an inconsequential run in the third, followed by another in the fourth, but still had an 8-2 lead.
But everything fell apart in the fifth inning. Peter Bourjos led off the inning with a homer to left. The Angels then had six consecutive hits, scoring four more runs, highlighted by a three-run homer from Mark Trumbo to cut the lead to 8-7. Hernandez gave up seven hits in the inning. It’s the most hits he’s given up in one inning in his career.
“No excuses,” he said. “It’s my fault.”
He was done after the fifth inning.
Wedge was forced to go to his bullpen. They offered only a modicum of relief.
The Angels tied the game in the sixth off Danny Farquhar on an RBI single from Pujols.
Seattle showed a little moxie, retaking the lead in the eighth inning. Brendan Ryan hit a leadoff single and later scored on Seager’s fourth hit of the night – a double to right. Seager finished 4-for-5 with a homer and two doubles.
But the Mariners bullpen gave it up again.
Set-up man Carter Capps was brought in to pitch the bottom of the eighth and promptly gave up a single to Bourjos. The speedy Bourjos promptly stole second and advanced to third on catcher Henry Blanco’s throwing error. He scored moments later on Erick Aybar’s single to right. Mike Trout followed with a single – his fourth hit of the night – to put Aybar on 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. Second baseman Franklin made a heady play, firing to third to get Aybar caught in a rundown and getting tagged out.
With the runners moving to second and third with one out, Wedge had Medina intentionally walk Trumbo to load the bases.
The move almost paid off. Howie Kendrick hit a rocket to the left side of the infield. Shortstop Ryan made a diving stop and fired 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 the game-winning run.
Angels closer Ernesto Frieri shut the Mariners down 1-2-3 in the ninth to save the improbable win.