CLEVELAND – One could forgive Felix Hernandez for feeling a little added pressure with each runner who gets on base as his season drags through a weary August stretch.
These are not the best of times for the Mariners, fighting to score runs and blowing games late, but they’ve been especially hard on Hernandez, one of a few Seattle players who truly has something left to compete for. The Mariners ace is vying for a Cy Young Award, a bid that suffered a setback in a 6-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday that saw Hernandez’s outing head south after a sixth-inning error by second baseman Jose Lopez.
“He’s done a lot for this ballclub and every time he goes out there, it seems he has to carry the burden of either stopping a losing streak or he’s got to be that guy,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said after the series loss left his team 2-4 on this trip. “But, that’s what an ace does. That’s what a guy contending for a Cy Young has to be able to do and that’s a lot of pressure on a 23-year-old.”
Hernandez insisted he didn’t lose his focus after Lopez bobbled the routine grounder with one out and none on in a 2-1 game.
“I didn’t think anything about the error,” Hernandez said. “You’ve just got to make the pitch and get a double play.”
And while that could be the case, despite the four runs on four hits and a sacrifice fly Hernandez allowed to the next five batters, any miscue is bound to turn up some heat considering how thin the margin for error already is for Mariners pitchers trying to win games.
Only one of the four runs Hernandez allowed that inning was earned. His earned-run average climbed to 2.73 from 2.66, but remained second best in the American League behind the 2.44 by Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals.
Hernandez’s ticket to a Cy Young could rest on his ERA. He has just one win in August despite two stellar outings before this one – the last of those seeing a 3-1 lead blown by Mark Lowe.
Every starting pitcher to win an A.L. Cy Young winner since 1960 has been a top-two finisher in either ERA or wins. Also, no pitcher since 1984 has failed to win a Cy Young when leading both of those categories, though, with Hernandez’s offense struggling, topping the league in wins is going to be tough.
Hernandez has 12 victories and trails a pack of five Cy Young hopefuls all ranging from 13 to 14 wins.
Hernandez entered the sixth inning down a run, having surrendered a go-ahead homer to Jhonny Peralta in the fourth. Ken Griffey Jr. had tied the score in the top of the inning with a solo shot off Fausto Carmona.
But that Griffey blast, his 624th career homer, was the only run scored by the Mariners in their past 20 innings. The Seattle offense was stymied by Carmona, who struck out eight over seven innings.
Indians 6, Mariners 1
|Griffey Jr. dh||4||1||1||1||0||2||.220|
E—Jo.Lopez (14). LOB—Seattle 6, Cleveland 6. 2B—Hannahan 2 (10), Ro.Johnson (17), LaPorta (4). 3B—Sizemore (5). HR—Griffey Jr. (13), off Carmona; Jh.Peralta (10), off F.Hernandez. RBIs—Griffey Jr. (41), Jh.Peralta 2 (67), Valbuena (21), LaPorta (8), Toregas (6), A.Marte (8). SF—Toregas. RLSP—Seattle 4 (Jo.Wilson 2, Jo.Lopez 2); Cleveland 1 (A.Marte). RMU—Branyan.
|F.Hernandez L, 12-5||6||9||6||3||0||6||101||2.73|
|Carmona W, 3-8||7||5||1||1||1||8||116||5.92|
WP—Batista. T—2:37. A—23,086 (45,199).
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