KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The worst pitch of the night by Felix Hernandez wasn’t even to home plate.
Instead, a self-described “changeup” he threw to second base in attempting to start an inning-ending double play led to an error and an eventual unearned run. It was only the first run of Monday night’s contest, but with the Mariners’ offense again missing in action, this 3-1 defeat to the Kansas City Royals was largely secured once the home side got on the board.
Seattle didn’t get a hit off Royals starter Kyle Davies until an infield single in the sixth; failed to get a hit out of the infield until two were gone in the seventh; and only scored in the ninth one out from defeat. So with Hernandez operating under virtually no margin for error, actually committing one in the very first inning did little for his cause.
“I think I hurried it a bit and I threw a changeup,” said Hernandez, admitting he had been worried about the speed of base runner Scott Podsednik. “I was hurrying. I grabbed the ball with my whole hand.”
The error moved Podsednik, a former Mariner, to third base and he scored on a Jose Guillen single to right.
Hernandez otherwise allowed just two runs over seven strong innings on a night his sinker deserted him at times. One came when Billy Butler crushed a flat-looking sinker over the center-field wall to lead off the seventh inning, delighting the sparse crowd of 11,391 at Kauffman Stadium and giving the Royals a 3-0 lead.
But two earned runs over seven innings should be enough to win on most nights. Only it’s not when Seattle scores three runs or fewer, something it has done in half its games.
It wasn’t enough for Doug Fister on Saturday when he yielded only two runs over seven frames. Nor for Jason Vargas when he allowed two runs over 62/3 innings before Sean White finished off the seventh.
For all the talk about Cliff Lee’s return, it’s doubtful he will generate results superior to those his first few times out at least. At some point, the Mariners will have to score more consistently.
“I was just trying to pitch my game and keep the game close,” Hernandez said with a shrug. “And give a chance to my team to come back and win the game.”
The Mariners at least generated chances with a decent approach, drawing some walks and forcing Davies out after six innings. They also had multiple base runners in the sixth, seventh and ninth.
“There were a lot of balls that we fouled off,” Mariners catcher Rob Johnson said of the earlier work on Davies. “Sometimes that happens. A pitcher throws good pitches and we foul them off. He kept on throwing good pitches, so we kept on battling, man. We kept on battling to try to put runs on the board for Felix and get our team the win. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen.”
Johnson was the first to get a hit out of the infield when he doubled to left off reliever Dusty Hughes to put runners at second and third with two out in the seventh. But Hughes got Jack Wilson to ground out to the pitcher.
Ichiro, who had broken up the no-hitter by Davies with an infield hit in the sixth, led off the eighth with a single, then stole second base, and later third with only one out. But Franklin Gutierrez flied out to shallow center and Jose Lopez popped out.
The Mariners finally got on the board in the ninth when Milton Bradley doubled and scored on a two-out single by pinch-hitter Mike Sweeney. But Ichiro popped out with two on against reliever Bruce Chen, against whom he had been 9 for 17 in his career.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said he doesn’t envision any immediate lineup changes and is still willing to wait for his regulars to get going. Wakamatsu got a boost with the return of Bradley from a calf muscle injury and saw good swings by him and another by Lopez on a bases-loaded fly out to the lip of the warning track that ended the sixth inning.
“Late in the ballgame, we started putting some pressure on them,” Wakamatsu said. “We ended up leaving something like eight runners on in the last four innings. And when you’re 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, you’re not going to win ballgames.”
No. 2 hitter Chone Figgins continued an awful 3-for-34 slump, going hitless and fanning three times.
“I’ve been through a lot of stuff like this,” Figgins said. “Is there some panic? No. There’s no panic.”
Wakamatsu is attempting to maintain the same, levelheaded approach as he waits for regulars both at the top and in the middle of his batting order to produce.
“You go 7-2 at home and things are functioning well,” Wakamatsu said. “Then you go on the road and end up putting yourself in a position to win three games in Chicago and you don’t do that. I don’t think now is the time to panic.”
Royals 3, Mariners 1
|Griffey Jr. dh||4||0||1||0||0||0||.220|
a-singled for J.Wilson in the 9th. 1-ran for M.Sweeney in the 9th. E—F.Hernandez (1). LOB—Seattle 9, Kansas City 10. 2B—Bradley (3), Ro.Johnson (2), Y.Betancourt (3). HR—B.Butler (2), off F.Hernandez. RBIs—M.Sweeney (2), DeJesus (10), B.Butler (12), J.Guillen (18). SB—I.Suzuki 2 (6). RLSP—Seattle 6 (Jo.Lopez 3, J.Wilson 2, I.Suzuki); Kansas City 4 (Kendall 2, Podsednik, DeJesus).
|F.Hernandez L, 2-1||7||7||3||2||3||7||114||2.23|
|Davies W, 2-1||6||1||0||0||3||5||108||3.65|
|Thompson H, 1||1/3||1||0||0||0||0||8||4.50|
|D.Hughes H, 3||2/3||2||0||0||0||0||15||4.82|
|Farnsworth H, 1||1 2/3||2||1||1||1||1||26||4.91|
|Chen S, 1-1||1/3||0||0||0||0||0||6||0.00|
D.Hughes pitched to 1 batter in the 8th. IR-S—D.Hughes 1-0, Farnsworth 1-0, Chen 2-0. WP—F.Hernandez. T—2:46. A—11,391 (37,840).