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September 1, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Plays not made by Mariners in field and at plate sealed this loss for Felix Hernandez

There were two areas in which the Mariners failed to make needed plays today and they’re the most important in any baseball game: in the field and at the plate.
We saw third baseman Kyle Seager miss that tough Albert Pujols grounder in the eighth for a two-base error. Seager was going to try to throw Mike Trout out at home and prevent the tying run (rather than attempt a 5-4-3 double play) but it all went out the window as the ball scooted down the left field line.
The game was tied at that point and then Mark Trumbo hit a two-run single off Felix Hernandez to send him reeling to a 5-2 defeat.
Now, I know that folks are on manager Eric Wedge for sending Hernandez back out there in the eighth inning with his pitch count at 103. But frankly, that’s what Hernandez does and among Wedge’s limited options at that point was Stephen Pryor — a guy going through his share of first-year struggles, as is much of the bullpen.
The batters coming up were Mike Trout, Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols and all are capable of hitting fastballs that arent accompanied by premium breaking stuff. Pryor’s breaking balls are a work in progress and — as I said — Pujols can destroy even 100 mph fastballs.
“You’ve got Felix Hernandez in the game, he’s in control of the ballgame, he’s got a reasonable pitch count and has been there before and handled it very well,” Wedge said. “And he’s still strong. He’s…one of the best pitchers in baseball and there was not a better option for us in that eighth inning than Felix as long as he’s still in a good spot. And he was.”
For me, the key at-bat of the game was the one by Hunter, who hit an 0-2 slider up the middle to put runners at first and third with none out. That changes the entire dynamic of things right there, though Seager could have helped out by at least getting his body in front of the ensuing Pujols grounder.
Instead, he let it by him and instead of the game merely being tied, there were now two runners in scoring position and the Angels aren’t the Twins or Indians and are capable of getting at least the go-ahead run in at that point.
“I saw him going,” Seager said of Trout. “I mean, it’s a contact play. Trout runs well, but if I’d caught the ball, he would have been out pretty easily. It’s just a play where I got caught in between hops and wasn’t able to make the play.
“I should have been able to make the play.”

Yeah, he’s probably right. It was a tough play and I’m not as certain as Seager that he would have thrown Trout out, as the latter is deceptively quick. But still, he’s got to at least get his body in front of that ball.
Anyhow, there will of course be room to second-guess Wedge here, especially since the top-three in the Angels’ batting order finished 6-for-14 off Hernandez.
But let’s be honest, here. No one in Seattle’s bullpen is lights-out at the moment, with Lucas Luetge getting hit hard last night, Pryor and Carter Capps both struggling with pitches that don’t involve big-time heat and honestly, given the veteran composure of the hitters involved, Hernandez probably was the best bet right there even if he wasn’t 100 percent.
“I felt good, I made good pitches,” Hernandez said. “I gave up a couple of ground balls that passed through to the outfield – that happens.”
It might not have happened had the Mariners added on to their 2-1 lead after the third inning. But once again, all of their damage was contained to just one frame.
This is becoming a trend for the team and was happening throughout the last road trip, even when Seattle was taking three of four from the Twins. You cant do all of your scoring in just an inning or two and expect to win.
It happened for the Angels today, but just barely. The Mariners got away with it against the Twins, but it’s a little tougher to do when the opposition is the White Sox or Angels and they have something to play for.
The Angels have won nine of 11 for a reason. They are a very good team finally playing ball the way they are expected to. They got some good pitching today from Ervin Santana for a change and their big bats came through when the game was on the line.
“We had multiple opportunities to add on,” Wedge said. “If we could add on a couple of times to make it 3-1, or even 4-1, it’s a different ballgame.
“And that’s where we really needed to do a better job.”
I agree wholeheartedly. This team was becoming a little too reliant on Hernandez throughout a string of 1-0 wins by their ace in August. They got away with it his last time out in Minnesota because the Twins couldn’t get a runner home from third with nobody out.
The good teams will find a way to do that — even against a guy as stellar as Hernandez.
Did this hurt Hernandez’s Cy Young Award chances? Not really. He was still pretty dominant for much of the day. His ERA climbed from 2.43 to 2.51 but let’s face it, if Seager makes that tough play, Hernandez maybe gets out of the inning up 2-1, wins the game and we’re not having this discussion.
The Mariners have to do a better job of being consistent at offensive execution throughout a game if they want to keep on winning in September the way they did in August — no matter who is pitching from them. They’ve been getting away with it for a while now, but today, that inability to make some offensive plays when they had to really cost them.



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