DETROIT – When an eternally long eighth inning first began, Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was feeling pretty good about his chances.
After all, he’d watched his team’s 175-pound, emergency shortstop, Josh Wilson, score the go-ahead run in the top of that frame, two innings after tying things up with just his second home run in two years. But just when the breathing was coming a little easier for Hernandez, the strings of this eventual 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night started to unravel.
Hernandez could only sit and watch helplessly in the bottom half of the eighth when relief pitcher Mark Lowe and the Seattle defense turned his two-run lead into an equivalent deficit.
“It feels weird,” Hernandez admitted afterward. “Because Lowe’s been doing a great job. He’s been outstanding. … It happens. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
There was little the Mariners could do about Lowe’s flat fastballs, one of which Alex Avila drove over the wall to cut Seattle’s lead to 3-2. But there was more they could have done on a pair of ensuing defensive plays that cost them the game and Hernandez a needed win as he takes a run at a Cy Young Award.
For all the good Wilson did at the plate, his error on a chopper that skipped under his glove put runners at first and third with one out in a one-run game. Lowe then walked Carlos Guillen and served up a bases-loaded, two-run single to Miguel Cabrera.
The Tigers tacked on another run after Cabrera got caught in a rundown between first and second. The pinch-runner at third, Ryan Raburn, broke for the plate and Russell Branyan’s throw was too high to prevent what was scored as a steal.
The added run could have proved huge in the ninth, when the M’s put runners at second and third with one out. But closer Fernando Rodney fanned Branyan and then Jose Lopez – in a 12-pitch at-bat – to finish it.
A somber-looking Lowe spoke with reporters, then sat by his locker a long while, staring into space.
“They got me when they had the chance,” Lowe said. “It’s not easy to swallow when Felix is pitching the way he did.”
Manager Don Wakamatsu pulled Hernandez at 106 pitches through seven innings, largely because of a recurrence of leg cramps that had plagued the right-hander in his previous outing.
Wakamatsu said the error by Wilson was “not an easy play,” because he had to snag the chopper on a short hop, but that the rundown could have been better executed by first baseman Branyan.
“He shouldn’t have run after the guy,” Wakamatsu said of Branyan’s pursuit of Cabrera. “He should have stayed at his bag and waited for the play to develop. If he does that, Cabrera’s out in no man’s land and the runner stays at third.”
The mistakes cost Hernandez a victory for the second straight week. He tossed seven innings of scoreless ball his last time out, only to earn a no-decision in a 1-0, 14-inning win over the Chicago White Sox.
This time, he trailed 1-0 in the sixth, with his team getting dominated by Tigers starter Rick Porcello. But after striking out his career-best eighth hitter, Porcello yielded Wilson’s homer.
The Mariners went ahead in the eighth on sacrifice flies by Branyan, scoring Wilson after a leadoff single, and Ken Griffey Jr. But Hernandez, who struck out nine and walked only one in lowering his ERA to 2.66, was denied his 13th victory.
Tigers 5, Mariners 3
|Griffey Jr. dh||2||0||0||1||1||1||.223|
|Seattle||000||001||020 – 3||8||1|
|Detroit||010||000||04x – 5||8||1|
E – Jo.Wilson (1), Inge (14). LOB – Seattle 9, Detroit 4. 2B – I.Suzuki (24). HR – Jo.Wilson (2), off Porcello; Avila (3), off M.Lowe. RBIs – Branyan (70), Griffey Jr. (40), Jo.Wilson (3), Mi.Cabrera 2 (72), Avila (7), Everett (33). SB – I.Suzuki (24), Raburn (4), Mi.Cabrera (3), Thomas (2), Everett (5). SF – Branyan, Griffey Jr. RLSP – Seattle 6 (F.Gutierrez 2, Ro.Johnson 2, Jo.Lopez 2); Detroit 2 (A.Huff, Thomas). RMU – A.Huff. GIDP – Branyan, A.Huff. DP – Seattle 1 (Jo.Lopez, Branyan); Detroit 1 (Everett, Polanco, Mi.Cabrera).
|M.Lowe L, 1-6 BS,5-6||1/3||3||4||2||1||0||3.38|
Inherited runners-scored – White 2-1, Perry 3-0, Seay 1-1. IBB – off Seay (Jo.Lopez, F.Gutierrez). T – 2:51. A – 33,710 (41,255).