ARLINGTON, Texas - It is less than one week into the season, and Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge said whatever frustration his team feels now, it must adjust to it.
What he didn’t say was that it may get worse before turning better.
Things took a decidedly wrong turn when Texas completed its sweep of Seattle with a 7-3 victory Wednesday that came at the expense of Felix Hernandez.
Perhaps worse than the loss was an injury to catcher Adam Moore, whose right knee “locked up” in the eighth inning. How bad was it? Moore had to be helped off the field, unable to put weight on his right leg.
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Moore will have examinations today to determine the damage.
Bet there will be another catcher – Josh Bard? – added to the roster by Friday, which will necessitate another front-office decision. If Bard comes aboard the 40-man roster, who comes off?
Five innings before Moore was hurt, second baseman Jack Wilson came out because he was “hazy” after being taken out hard on a potential double play. On that play, Wilson’s throw toward first base was wild – his second error of the inning.
A pitcher who often relies on his sinker to get ground-ball outs, Hernandez was done in by balls that should have become ground-ball outs. But when Wilson dropped a throw from Chone Figgins on one play, then threw it away on another, the Rangers took full advantage and scored their first three runs.
One was earned.
“That’s baseball, it happens,” said Felix, always quick to defend a teammate.
“We didn’t play well today,” said Wedge, who won’t pretend a bad game is something else.
Wilson, taken out of the game after that half-inning, said later that it wasn’t his head that forced his exit, it was his play.
“The takeout had nothing to do with the throw. I threw the ball before he hit me. It’s just one of those things that didn’t click today,” Wilson said. “Not catching a ball thrown to you is ridiculous. Especially when (Felix) is going out there giving us fantastic innings.
“He gets a couple runners on and gets the ground balls we need and can’t convert, that’s all on me. Today’s whole loss is on that second inning and what I wasn’t able to do.”
For a group that had the chance to win any or all of their three games in Texas, there were simply too many mistakes and failures at key moments.
On Tuesday with runners in scoring position and one out, Figgins popped out and the Mariners lost a close game. On Wednesday, he came up in the fifth inning with two on and two out, trailing 3-2, and grounded out.
Worse, in the seventh inning there were two on and two out and the score was tied when Figgins, who appeared anxious, tapped back to the mound.
“We’re giving ourselves opportunities, we’re just not getting that last hit, the hit that makes the difference,” Wedge said. “We string an inning together and get a run, but we don’t get two or three runs.
“We’ve put a lot of ‘ones’ on the board when we had the chance for more.”
After winning the opening-night game with a complete-game victory, Hernandez went seven innings against Texas and allowed four runs – two of them earned. With a better defensive performance, he’d have been ahead, 3-2.
With more offense, who knows?
Because he got neither, Felix left trailing 4-3, and relievers Chris Ray and Brandon League gave up three insurance runs in the eighth inning, sealing a 6-0 start for the American League champion Rangers.
“I felt like I made my pitches, I got a lot of ground balls,” Hernandez said.
When someone pointed out it was the bottom of the Texas order – David Murphy, Yorvit Torrealba and Mitch Moreland – who did much of the damage against him, Hernandez nodded.
“They have a good lineup, top to bottom, and anyone over there can hurt you,” he said.
Combined, Murphy, Torrealba and Moreland had five hits and scored four runs. By comparison, the top of the Seattle lineup – Ichiro, Figgins and Milton Bradley – went a combined 1-for-10 and scored once.
While they await test results on Moore and wonder when they can get Franklin Gutierrez back in center field, the Mariners and Wedge will try to stay patient with a team that has started slow.
It’s not just the 2-4 record. Figgins is hitting .120, Jack Cust .200, Brendan Ryan .133, Michael Saunders .100 and Moore was at .167. Those numbers put a lot of holes in any rally Seattle tries to sustain.
Move to make adjustments too quickly and a team can see it as panic. Too slowly, fans might see as a willingness to replay 2010.
The truth is, the Mariners were in close games most of this trip, games they could have won.
“We’ve been one hit, one play short all week,” Wedge said. “It’s early, we’re not even a full week into the season. We’ll help them deal with frustration. We’ll recognize what we want to do differently and work on how to do it.
“We’re going to get better.”
Cleveland (Carlos Carrasco, 0-1, 9.45 ERA) at Seattle (Jason Vargas, 0-0, 1.35 ERA), 7:10 p.m., Root Sports, 1240-AM, 1030-AM