SEATTLE – Since the All-Star break, even throwing a shutout was no guarantee of victory for a Seattle Mariners pitcher.
Felix Hernandez didn’t have that problem Saturday night. A shutout would have been enough.
He just didn’t have one in him.
And the Mariners had little more offense in them than the barest minimum, absorbing their eighth consecutive loss – 5-1 to the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on a night when 30,896 fans honored a team that never had problems scoring runs.
Eighteen members of the 2001 M’s were feted in pregame ceremonies, along with manager Lou Piniella, coaches and general manager Pat Gillick. The old M’s wore their old uniform tops over their street clothes as they were introduced.
Too bad they couldn’t have been enticed into putting on the trousers and taking a few cuts. They couldn’t have done much worse.
“We haven’t been a good offensive club all year,” admitted manager Eric Wedge, who was ejected in the eighth inning by second-base umpire Fielding Culbreth for arguing a balk call. “You’re seeing the worst of it now.”
The current M’s managed just six hits and a single run – Ichiro Suzuki knocking home Franklin Gutierrez with fifth-inning single which at the time pulled Seattle into a tie.
It was the Mariners’ first run after 30 scoreless innings.
But though they had the leadoff runner aboard in two of the next three innings, they never came close to scoring again.
In the meantime, Hernandez – with his King’s Court rooting section going full tilt in the left-field corner – didn’t do himself or his teammates any favors.
The 25-year-old All-Star right-hander (8-8) had his third pitch taken over the left-field wall by Ian Kinsler, putting the M’s in a 1-0 hole.
Given new life by Ichiro’s RBI single, Hernandez couldn’t hold the lead. Endy Chavez led off the top of the sixth inning with a single, moved to second on a ground out and scored on Elvis Andrus’ sharp single to center.
And in the eighth it all unraveled, starting with Kinsler’s one-out homer on a 3-2 pitch.
“I made a couple of mistakes and I paid,” said Hernandez – though he was counting only one home run. “The first one was as good pitch, inside, but the second one was right in the middle of the plate.”
Andrus followed with a single and took second on a balk that Wedge disputed vigorously – or at least disputed not being able to dispute it.
A wild pitch then moved Andrus to third.
When Hernandez got Josh Hamilton to hit him a ground ball, he looked Andrus back – but only part way – and the Rangers speedster broke for home when the throw went to first, beating Justin Smoak’s relay easily.
“Andrus is a smart guy – and fast,” Hernandez said. “He got me right there.”
That was more than enough cushion for Texas starter C.J. Wilson (10-3) and two relievers, including closer Neftali Feliz, against whom the M’s are 0 for 30 in his career.
“I’ve said it before – we’re going to come out of this,” Wedge said. “We’re going to get to the point where we can count on our guys offensively to do their part. It sure as hell doesn’t look like it right now. … We’ve got a lot of young kids learning on the job and some veterans who need to be doing a better job. The biggest thing is, we’ve got to be tougher.”