SEATTLE – Felix Hernandez was quick to face the media Saturday evening inside the Mariners locker room at Safeco Field, and just as willing to own up to the puzzler of an otherwise starry career:
Why is May such a struggle for him?
“It’s always terrible,” said Hernandez, following a third straight Mariner loss to Los Angeles, this one 5-3. “I mean, I don’t know why, what happens in May. It’s the worst month of my career. I have no idea why.”
Hernandez, 89-71 in a career that includes a Cy Young Award, is somehow 10-20 in May. He entered this late-afternoon game with a 4.61 career earned-run average in May and didn’t do anything to flatter it, surrendering a solo homer to Albert Pujols and a pinch-hit grand slam to Alberto Callaspo for all the Angel runs.
“Like today,” said a perplexed Hernandez, “I make good pitches, and they just (hit) it.”
First, Pujols. If he hadn’t awakened from his early-season struggles by the time he hit Seattle, the M’s have startled him to attention like a jolt of the city’s famed caffeine. Pujols came here with four homers and has hit one in each of the first three games, and there’s a certain majesty to most of them.
“When he’s locked in,” said Hernandez’s batterymate, Miguel Olivo, “it’s danger.”
Pujols rifled what resembled a rising two-iron to the stands in deep left-center to break a scoreless tie in the fourth. Then, when the M’s took their only lead at 2-1 in the fifth, the Angels answered in a hurry, loading the bases with none out in the sixth against Hernandez.
After Hernandez positioned himself to get out of the inning with a strikeout of Kole Calhoun, Angels manager Mike Scioscia opted to pinch-hit Callaspo for his No. 9 hitter, catcher Bobby Wilson.
On an 0-1 count, Hernandez threw a fastball above the belt on the inner half that left both him and Olivo stunned that it was so hurtful.
Callaspo hit a high drive to right, not especially awe-inspiring, but maybe 340 feet into the stands near the foul line.
“He pulled his hands in and hit it,” said Hernandez.
“He was trying to hit a pop-up (a fly to tie the score) and he hit it out of the ballpark.”
“He didn’t even believe he hit the ball right there,” claimed Olivo, who said he asked Callaspo on his next at-bat how he hit it out. “He said, ‘I just threw the bat in there.’ ”
Callaspo agreed with the two M’s, saying, “I just tried to hit a sac fly. I didn’t know I hit it that hard. (Hernandez) is really good. Maybe I just got lucky.”
The M’s fanned 12 times, including seven of their final nine outs after Justin Smoak had brought them one run closer in the sixth with a homer.
Angels 5, Mariners 3
LOB—Los Angeles 7, Seattle 8. 2B—Pujols (10), Jaso (7). HR—Pujols (7), Callaspo (2), Smoak (7). RBIs—Pujols (26), Callaspo 4 (15), Ackley (16), Smoak (20), Carp (8). SB—Trumbo (3), Ackley (5), Carp (1). CS—Trout (2). RLISP—Los Angeles 3, Seattle 5. RMU—H.Kendrick. GIDP—Aybar, I.Suzuki. DP—Los Angeles 1, Seattle 1.
|Williams W, 5-2||6||5||3||3||2||5||3.81|
|Walden H, 3||2/3||0||0||0||1||2||2.63|
|S.Downs H, 8||1||1||0||0||1||2||0.00|
|Frieri S, 2-2||11/3||0||0||0||1||3||0.00|
|F.Hrnndz L, 4-4||6||10||5||5||1||7||3.17|
IR-S—S.Downs 1-0, Frieri 1-0. HBP—M.Izturis. WP—S.Downs. T—3:07. A—29,483 (47,860).