Felix Hernandez couldn’t have done much more Wednesday night. But several of his teammates couldn’t have done worse. And once again, in the great Mariners tradition, another gem from King Felix was squandered.
Handed a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth, closer Fernando Rodney managed the first two outs before giving up a single and a walk. An egregious error by SS Brad Miller on a third-out grounder loaded the bases. Then Rodney’s wild pitch brought home the tying run, and CF Leonys Martin singled in the game-winner for a 3-2 triumph that was a soul-crusher in Texas on a busy day of bad health news for the Mariners.
“You win your share of these, you lose your share of these,” said manager Lloyd McClendon, attempting to downplay the last-out debacle. “I told them you just have to turn the page and get ready for tomorrow.”
Giving up one run and four hits in eight innings, Hernandez won his battle with Texas ace Yu Darvish. But the final-out collapse was another reminder of how difficult it is for the Mariners to support their star pitcher.
After a leadoff triple in the eighth inning to Martin, McClendon pulled Hernandez after 96 pitches.
“I asked him before he went out (for the eighth), and he said he still had a little left in the tank,” McClendon told reporters. “I thought he lost a little location, and he’d pretty much run out of gas.”
After the game, Hernandez typically avoided blame or personal dismay.
“Tough loss for us,” he said. “All I can say is, that’s baseball.”
After the day began with the news that starting pitchers Taijuan Walker and Blake Beavan would be shut down for a couple of weeks with shoulder problems and OF Logan Morrison went on the 15-day disabled list with a sore hamstring, the Mariners responded well with a replacement: Nick Franklin.
Just arrived from AAA Tacoma, Franklin, 23, was the designated hitter batting sixth in the second inning against Darvish, who had yet to give up a run in 16 innings. Franklin, hitting .395 in Tacoma, rocketed a shot to deep center and easily made third.
After Justin Smoak struck out, Dustin Ackley walked and Mike Zunino singled to score Franklin. Abraham Almonte singled, scoring Ackley when the throw to the plate wasn’t caught by Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos.
But that was it for the offense, even though Darvish wasn’t razor sharp with seven hits and two walks over seven innings.
Hernandez had nine strikeouts and no walks in 96 pitches, 68 for strikes. But in the eighth, the triple by Martin, his first hit off Hernandez in 12 career at-bats, invited the hook.
McClendon replaced Hernandez with lefty Charlie Furbush, who gave up a sacrifice fly to score Martin. But Furbush struck out ex-Mariner Shin-soo Choo, then Yoervis Medina came in to strike out Elvis Andrus.
In the ninth came closer Rodney. Facing the Rangers’ 3-4-5 hitters, he quickly got Alex Rios to fly out and Prince Fielder to strike out. But Kevin Kouzmanoff singled off the tip of Miller’s out-stretched glove. After McClendon came out to hit Rodney’s reset button, Mitch Moreland walked on a 3-2 pitch to advance the tying run to second.
The game looked over when pinch-hitter Donnie Murphy’s grounder rolled into Miller’s glove. But he bobbled the ball, then shoveled underhand a toss that took every bit of Robinson Cano’s athleticism at second base to snare before the ball went over his head into right field. Moreland slid in safe under the airborne Cano, and the bases were loaded.
Rodney took care of that with a wild pitch that caromed off the backstop and allowed Kouzmanoff to score the tying run. Then Martin won the game with a bloop single into left.
The Mariners (7-7) fell to third place in the AL West, and wrap up the series Thursday with an 11 a.m. start, sending Erasmo Ramirez to the mound against Tanner Scheppers, the Rangers’ opening-day starter.
It was Hernandez’s 40th career start against the Rangers, against whom he had a weak record — 12-20 with a 4.18 ERA. The 20 losses are the most by a pitcher against the Rangers since they moved to Arlington in 1972. In 2013, Hernandez was 0-4 with 7.57 against Texas . . . Darvish was 3-3 with a 4.78 ERA in seven career starts against the Mariners . . . Left fielder Dustin Ackley was back in the lineup in left after two off-days in the past three. McClendon said it was strictly a chance to provide rest, knowing he will play Ackley eight consecutive days of right-handed starting pitching . . . Franklin is likely to start Thursday at second base to allow Cano to have a day at DH.