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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

May 15, 2007 at 11:55 PM

Who needs Felix Hernandez?

Just kidding everyone, relax. But the Mariners have been staying afloat for four weeks without No. 1 starter Hernandez and they did it again tonight with him, well, not really showing up either.
That was about as rusty an effort as you’re likely to see from Hernandez for quite a while. When the guy goes only 3 2/3 innings, you don’t expect to see Seattle beat the first-place Angels by eight runs. But the Mariners did the little things right in this game. They legged out hits, an infield single by Ichiro in the first inning and a leadoff “double” by Raul Ibanez on a misplayed grounder to start the huige six-run third.
The Angels had outscored their opponents 41-12 in the first inning this season. So, for Seattle to get a 3-0 jump in tonight’s first was huge.
“Being able to get runs early on gives you an advantage,” Ichiro said after tying his career high with five hits, all of them singles. “And the more runs you get, the bigger that advantage is. Particularly today when today was the day when Felix came back. To be able to get three (first inning) runs like that, I’m sure allowed us to give our opponents major mental damage.”
No, that wasn’t just one of those quirky translations of something Ichiro said in Japanese. The Angels really did appear mentally damaged in this one. From a distracted-looking Escobar throwing wild pitches, to first baseman Casey Kotchman foolish trying to outrun Ichiro to the bag in that first inning, the Angels did not look like a first-place team playing a key series.
Maybe it was the surprisingly small Safeco Field crowd of 21,769 and the lack of division-race atmosphere in the building. I don’t know. But the Mariners made the Angels look like a really bad team. No, Vlad Guerrero didn’t play in this one. But still, you’ve got to show up. We’ll see whether the M’s can keep bashing Bartolo Colon and John Lackey around the way they manhandled Escobar.
“He’s got really good stuff, Escobar does,” Mariners left fielder Raul Ibanez said. “So, you’ve got to try to take what they give you. He can be really tough. He can be really, really tough. So, I thought we did a nice job capitalizing on all the little things.”
Hernandez knew his mechanics were off in this one. He was rushing at times and had to be told to slow things down by pitching coach Rafael Chaves. But he was smiling afterwards, looking like a guy who’s spent too much time on the sidelines.
“I like to go out to pitch every five days,” he said. “When you’re on the DL, you do nothing. I was so bored.”
Mariners manager Mike Hargrove expected the rust he saw. But he now expects gradual improvement and will let Hernandez go about 95 to 100 pitches his next time out.
“The big thing about Felix tonight was that he didn’t feel anything on any pitches,” Hargrove said. “He felt healthy and strong and that’s good.”



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