Not even the great Felix Hernandez was immune to the late-season implosion of the Mariners pitching staff. Five days removed from dominating the Angels, Hernandez Tuesday in Toronto took on a mightier foe in the Blue Jays, second in the American League in home runs and OPS. He was crushed.Seattle (83-74) suffered a devastating 10-2 loss, the fourth in a row and by a cumulative score of 42-10. Kansas City (86-71), on the other hand, delivered a similar beating to Cleveland, 7-0, that put the Royals three games ahead of the Mariners for the second wild-card berth with five games to go. Oakland (86-70), holding the top wild-card spot, played Anaheim late Tuesday.
A brutal fifth inning proved to be the ruin of Hernandez. The AL Cy Young Award favorite carried a 2-1 lead and a streak of 11 consecutive retired batters with him as he took the mound. Just as the Mariners season flipped on a dime over the last three weeks, so did Hernandez.
Wary of walking speedy rookie outfielder Dalton Pompey, Hernandez grooved a 3-1 fastball that Pompey hammered for his first career home run. That tied the game at 2-2 and spurred a seven-run inning in which the Blue Jays sent 13 to the plate against Hernandez (14-6, 2.34 ERA).
Fellow rookie Anthony Gose followed with a double and moved to third on a bunt single by Josh Thole. Ryan Goins made the first out with a sacrifice fly to left field. After a single and two walks, the latter to Edwin Encarnacion with the bases loaded, Adam Lind dropped a single in front of Michael Saunders in right field to make it 5-2. The final out of Hernandez’s 44-pitch inning came when the defense was unable to turn a double play out of Munenori Kawasaki’s soft ground ball.
Toronto had six hits and three walks in an inning that lasted nearly a half-hour. Hernandez lasted 4.2 innings and gave up eight hits. The eight runs matched a career high. He struck out five in what was likely his final start of the season, presuming contention is no issue by the weekend.
Hernandez finished a four-game run in which Seattle starters pitched to a cumulative 16.57 ERA without completing five innings.
Robinson Cano provided a 2-1 lead when he delivered a two-out single with the bases loaded in the third inning. It seemed a critical at-bat at the time, trailing 1-0 against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, proving to be inconsequential.
Manager Lloyd McClendon has been constant in his protecting of Hernandez, rarely letting him pitch deeper than seven innings or 110 pitches. He responded with a sterling 0.96 ERA over his four September starts, but had the worst single inning of his major league career.