SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez has spent all of this season in the shadow of a pitching teammate, and his latest outing was no different.
Hernandez threw seven innings of two-run ball against the Kansas City Royals on Monday night, but was denied a victory when Brandon League came on in the eighth and served up two tying runs.
The Mariners eventually lost, 6-4 in 10 innings, after a go-ahead single by former Seattle shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. But the predominant story on the night once again wasn’t Hernandez, or League, but left-handed ace Cliff Lee.
Even before Hernandez had thrown a handful of pitches in this contest, a report by a Detroit radio station stated that a Lee trade to the Minnesota Twins was all but done. Lee remained in the dugout throughout the game, and subsequent reports later denied that any deal had been completed.
But the two sides apparently continue to talk, leaving the results of the game almost an afterthought in the greater scheme of things.
The talks with the Twins are reported to center on five-tool Class A outfielder Aaron Hicks, 20, the No. 14 overall pick in the 2008 draft, as well as Class Triple-A catching prospect Wilson Ramos. There have been rumors that right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson, a first-round draft pick by Minnesota last year, could also be involved, though a three-player haul of that caliber would likely require the M’s to send an additional player to the Twins.
Minnesota needs bullpen help, and the M’s have potential trade bait in David Aardsma and League.
Ramos and Gibson did not play for their minor-league affiliates on Monday, as had been expected. No immediate reason was available, but their inactivity only further fueled rumors a Lee deal was imminent.
Hernandez wasn’t as sharp in front of 22,617 fans at Safeco Field as he’d looked in previous outings, including three straight complete-game performances. He was done after seven innings of this affair, having thrown 112 pitches while giving up the two earned runs.
It initially looked to be enough on a night when Russell Branyan once again went deep for the home side, his two-run homer to right field in the fifth inning lifting Hernandez to a 4-1 lead. Branyan has homered three times in one week since returning following a trade from Cleveland.
But the Royals got a run back off Hernandez in the sixth, and League could not find the strike zone in the eighth. He fell behind early and often and yielded leadoff singles to Jason Kendall and David DeJesus before a sacrifice fly by Billy Butler cut Seattle’s lead to just a run.
Jose Guillen then singled, sending the lead runner to third, and Alberto Callaspo lined to center to tie it.
Seattle had runners at second and third with none out in the bottom of the eighth after the second double of the game by Jose Lopez. But reliever Robinson Tejeda, who’d replaced starter Brian Bannister to start the inning, fanned Franklin Gutierrez and then – after an intentional walk to load the bases – struck out pinch-hitter Milton Bradley. Jack Wilson popped out to end the inning.
Kansas City went ahead to stay in the 10th on a single by Betancourt and a bloop hit by Scott Podsednik.
• LHP Erik Bedard, who had rotator cuff surgery on Aug. 14, was scratched from his scheduled start today because of shoulder soreness after his last bullpen session.