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September 7, 2012 at 11:31 PM

Loss leaves Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander in a dead-heat statistically

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Felix Hernandez hadn’t lost consecutive starts in four months until tonight, when he was hammered 6-1 by Oakland, on the heels of a 5-2 late loss to the Angels last weekend. All of a sudden, his ERA is drifting back up into Justin Verlander territory.
Hernandez and Verlander are now 13-7 with Hernandez owning a slight innings lead of 208 2/3 to 204 1/3. But Hernandez has now thrown one more game than Verlander, who can retake the innings lead and perhaps whittle his ERA down to where Hernandez now sits.
That ERA race sees Hernandez leading 2.67 to 2.71.
Like I said, it’s a virtual dead heat. Verlander also has 209 strikeouts to 195 for Hernandez, who fanned four batters tonight — a low total for him.
David Price is up there as well, but his innings total is 28 behind Hernandez — which is about the equivalent of four pretty deeply-pitched games. That’s a pretty hefty gap to have to make up in an awards race, even with a 17-5 record and 2.54 ERA. Be careful, though, because if Price notches 20 wins, has an ERA that’s lower than both Hernandez and Verlander and goes beyond 200 innings, he could sneak up on the other two.
Voters still pay attention to those three categories above most others and while there is an obvious innings gap, neither Hernandez nor Verlander can afford too many more of these five-and-dive types of games.
In other words, it’s still a two-horse race by my handicapping skills, so long as Hernandez and Verlander don’t let Price sneak up on them too much more. Also, I still think Hernandez’s perfect game has enough clout to carry the day over Verlander as long as this was Hernandez’s final hiccup of the season.
“Every pitch was up,” Hernandez said. “I fell behind a lot of times and they made me pay.”
Indeed, the funny thing is the one pretty good pitch he made was a slider to George Kottaras in the fourth that got blasted over the right field wall. Hernandez put it where he wanted and kept it down.
But as catcher John Jaso said afterwards, the barrel of Kottaras’ bat just ran into the ball and hit it out. It happens. Unfortunately, there were two men on at the time.


And unfortunately, the Mariners did all of their scoring in one inning today. When you do that and you only score once, you will usually lose. Hernandez helped the Mariners win three 1-0 games last month.
But that’s simply asking too much of him. No pitcher can keep that up.
Not the way Hernandez pitched today. At first, the hits were only bloopers. But then, the A’s started to put consistent square contact on him.
“The A’s are a hot team,” Jaso said. “Once they get a little momentum going, it’s pretty tough to battle them. I think some of those bloop hits were pretty costly.”
Once Kottaras hit the home run, you kind of sensed the game was over.
“I was trying everything out there,” Hernandez said. “But nothing worked. I was opening-up too much, I fell behind, I was leaving pitches up. That’s why I gave up six runs.”
A’s pitcher A.J. Griffin became the first Oakland rookie since 1988 to start his career 5-0 and showed why today by keeping the M’s off-balance throughout.
Griffin threw a lot of pitches — 109 over 5 1/3 innings — but he got several of his seven strikeouts a key moments and you never really got the sense the Mariners were on the verge of anything.
Oliver Perez kept up his solid, under-the-radar season with another 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, making it 18 straight shutout appearances for him.
Erasmo Ramirez looked good with his lone inning of relief and he’ll be the first of the two Class AAA callups — Hector Noesi being the other — to start a game at some point next week. Noesi went next and tossed two scoreless frames, looking much better the second time around than he did the first.
Luis Jimenez got his first big-league hit in front of his mother and father.
And no, Hernandez did not blow the Cy Young race tonight. Relax and have confidence. This is still his race to lose, I truly believe. He just can’t have any more games like this one or he will lose it. I don’t think he will, even though the opposition stays mostly tough from here on it.
Hernandez tends to rise to the occasion. I expect he’ll do that in the weeks ahead. This one outing was probably a wake-up call of sorts. Nothing lasts forever. Now, it’s time to regroup.

Comments | Topics: Oliver Perez

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