CLEVELAND — Felix Hernandez shook off a hard fall on a fielding play to strike out 10, Wily Mo Pena drove in four runs and the Seattle Mariners chased Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin before the sixth inning Wednesday in a 9-2 rout that left the Indians’ playoff hopes flickering.
Hernandez (12-11) allowed two runs in six innings as the last-place Mariners took three of four from the fading-fast Indians. Cleveland dropped below .500 for the first time since April 3. The Indians are 61/2 games behind AL Central-leading Detroit, which plays at Tampa Bay tonight.
Pena hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning and his two-run double in the fifth knocked out Tomlin (12-7), who didn’t get through the fifth for the first time in 37 career starts. The right-hander and current Toronto manager John Farrell are the only two pitchers since 1919 to begin their careers so consistently.
Mariners rookie Kyle Seager went 4 for 4 with three doubles and batted .769 (10-for-13) in the four-game series. Seattle pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts.
Hernandez’s hustle nearly ended his outing early.
In the third, Cleveland’s Ezequiel Carrera popped up a bunt to the right side. Hernandez, listed at 6-foot-3 and a generous 225 pounds, made a diving attempt to catch it in the air. He came up a little short, and his fully extended body slammed down onto the grass.
Hernandez appeared dazed as a trainer and Mariners manager Eric Wedge checked on him. The right-hander remained hunched over and seemed unsure before throwing a few warmup pitches and staying in. The Mariners continued to look him over when he came back to the dugout.
It’s just the Indians luck that he was OK. Along with the loss, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo got hurt taking pregame batting practice and catcher Carlos Santana left woozily in the ninth after taking a foul tip off his mask. Injuries have ravaged the Indians, who started only three players from their opening-day lineup.
Tomlin was one strike from owning the record himself when the Mariners erupted in the fifth for four runs.
He gave up two singles to open the inning, got two outs and was ahead 1-2 in the count before Miguel Olivo hit an RBI single to snap a 2-2 tie. Seager hit his third double, a ground-rule shot that made it 4-2. Pena, who homered in his previous at-bat, then laced his double to finish Tomlin.
Manager Manny Acta hung his head as he walked to the mound to ask Tomlin for the ball. The right-hander received a warm ovation from Cleveland’s fans on his way off.
Seattle took a 9-2 lead in the seventh on Brendan Ryan’s two-run triple.
The Indians have hardly gone a day without an injury or injury update and Wednesday was no exception.
Choo hurt himself swinging in the indoor cages and was dropped from the starting lineup. The Indians described the injury as “left trunk soreness.” Choo homered twice on Tuesday when the Indians split a doubleheader.
With Choo out, Acta moved Santana from cleanup into Choo’s No. 3 spot, put Kosuke Fukudome in right and had Shelley Duncan bat fourth. He also gave shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera a needed day of rest.
Pena’s two-run homer to straightaway center gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead in the fourth. After Seager doubled, Pena belted a 1-0 pitch from Tomlin into the shrubs beyond the wall. The long ball has been a problem for Tomlin, who gave up three homers in his previous start against Detroit and has allowed 24 in 26 starts.
Indians OF Grady Sizemore felt “great” following a 15-minute batting practice session, his first since going on the DL in July with a bruised knee and following sports hernia surgery. Sizemore’s latest comeback — he had microfracture surgery last year — could send him to the minors next week. The Indians hope to have him back by the second week in September. Wedge has always admired Sizemore’s go-after-it style. He managed Sizemore six seasons in Cleveland. “He’s a great player when healthy,” Wedge said. “He’s always been a hard impact guy. He’s not going to play any other way. I can tell you that much.” … LHP Anthony Vasquez, who won his major league debut Tuesday, might get another start as Wedge considers a six-man rotation.