Torii Hunter ended Felix Hernandez’s quest for victory with a game-tying single in the ninth off Josh Kinney. That scored Peter Bourjos from second base and tied the game up 3-3.
And with it, I fear, went Hernandez’s Cy Young Award chances. He was good tonight, giving up two earned runs over six innings while striking out nine. But he needed to be great and he wasn’t enough of that to overcome all the stats hurdles in front of him in that race.
Hernandez now has a 2.86 ERA that is tied for fourth.
He is second in strikeouts and innings pitched.
You see where I’m going with this? Yeah, he isn’t really leading in anything.
He was leading in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) at the start of the night, but not by much. I’m not smart enough to calculate that on my own, but voters aren’t going to give it to him based on a slim lead in one sabermetric stat when he trails in all of the more traditional ones.
On to the ninth inning we go.
8:31 p.m: Those adjustments made by Justin Smoak continue to pay off as he just hit his third homer of the series, to left field off C.J. Wilson, to give Seattle a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning. Smoak now has three home runs in the two games here and entered tonight hitting .472 over his past 10 contests.
The Mariners actually trailed in this game 2-0 and the Angels at one point looked poised to run Felix Hernandez out of the building. But with two runs across in the second inning, the bases loaded after two walks and Hernandez having already thrown 43 pitches, Torii Hunter helped him out big time by first-pitch swinging into a feeble groundout that ended the threat.
You can guess what happened next.
The Mariners tied things up right away in the third after walks to Casper Wells and Chone Figgins and a single by Brendan Ryan for one run. Figgins went from first to third on the hit and despite the fact it was to left field. Mark Trumbo had a shot at throwing Figgins out directly at third, but hit the cutoff man instead and Figgins made it in easily.
Franklin Gutierrez hit a sac fly soon afterwards to tie it.
I’ll tell you, it’s plays like those that aren’t made that help explain why these Angels have yet to lock down a playoff spot. Whether it’s the poor ABs they’ve taken the past two nights or non-thinking plays by guys like Trumbo, there is something about the Angels that just leaves you wanting more for the money they spent.
Then again, through all that, they could still win 90. Could have won a lot more, though.
7:06 p.m.: Felix Hernandez hasn’t won a game in the month of September and it’s just about impossible to take home a Cy Young Award without doing that. This isn’t a 2010 kind of not winning either. He’s been blown out in a couple of contests.
Right now, with David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays well over 200 innings and narrowing that gap between him and Hernandez, with a better record and ERA, the M’s ace needs a showcase start here tonight in order to re-establish himself.
Between Price, Justin Vernander and Hernandez, I’d put Felix third right now. It isn’t all his fault — there has been the usual lack of offensive support — but he needs to get his ERA down and get to 15 wins if he’s to have a chance.
This isn’t 2010. With the kinds of seasons Verlander and Price are having, being top-three in a bunch of categories isn’t going to be enough. Hernandez has to pick up some wins, get his ERA lower and hope Price and Verlander have a blow-up between now and season’s end.
So, as if that didn’t set this game up enough, the Angels are facing another must-win tonight if they want to have hopes of catching the A’s. Oakland is again getting the job done and winning at Texas tonight.
The Angels can’t afford to fall three games back with less than a week to go. They have to find a way to beat Hernandez, as they’ve done before.