There are the usual assortment of managerial decision complaints popping up on the blog again tonight, but all you really need to know about this Mariners loss is one thing: Brendan Ryan hit a leadoff double in the fifth inning and remained stuck on the bases.
You can do that against the Twins, Indians, Blue Jays and Red Sox…and maybe the Royals the way they were playing in July. But you can’t do that against teams fighting for their playoff lives.
The Angels got a runner to second base on a single and a wild-pitch in the ninth and did what winning teams do. One well-executed bunt — let’s not get into that topic and the Mariners this past month — later by Peter Bourjos and the M’s were playing not to lose. They walked Mike Trout in a pick-your-poison move to set up the double-play, only to see Torii Hunter line a single.
Because that’s what contending teams do to stay contenders.
The Mariners, instead of building on their 3-2 lead with Ryan’s double and maybe helping Felix Hernandez secure an increasingly rare win, instead found a way to not get it done…again. That’s why they lost.
Wedge pulled Hernandez after six innings with his pitch count at a workable 103. But it’s September, the Mariners are out of it and nobody wants to push Hernandez’s arm too much just for the sake of a Cy Young Award race that he already had greatly-reduced odds of ever winning.
Tonight, Hernandez’s chances at the award ended in the second inning. They ended when he needed 12 pitches to get a result — a walk — on Chris Iannetta, which ran his pitch count to 44 after a pair of frames. And they ended when he gave up two runs that inning.
To reduce his numbers enough to catch David Price and Justin Verlander in ERA, Hernandez realistically needed to end his season with a pair of complete-game shutouts. Even with those, he might not overtake Verlander for the innings lead.
It just isn’t lining up for him. You can’t go an entire month without a win this late in the season and expect to get a Cy Young: not merely because of win totals, but because of all the peripheral stats likely causing the non-wins.
Hernandez has looked good the majority of this month. He just hasn’t looked great.
To win a Cy Young, he needed to be great because his closest opponents have turned their games up a notch.
He won’t lose that race because of tonight’s yank by Wedge. And the Mariners didn’t lose this game because Wedge pulled his starter.
They lost for the same reason they’ve gone 8-14 in September, including 4-12 against contenders. Six of those losses in the last 1 1/2 weeks have either been by one run, or come in extra-innings.
Seattle has won a handful of one-run games this month, but they just aren’t separating from the good teams. And they are not splitting these games with the good teams. They are losing most of them, because good teams find ways to prevail more than they lose.
Wedge hopes some of what the Mariners are experiencing this month will help them down the road.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids that are going through an experience right now that’s going to help them be a better, veteran club in a couple of years,” Wedge said. “And they’ll be better for it next year. All these one-run games we’ve come up short with, we’ll win a lot of those games next year just because of their experiences and going through everything that they’ve gone through.
“In particular here in September. Every night for these teams is a playoff game. That’s the atmosphere and that’s what they’re going through. And we’re right in the mix with them and fighting all the way.”
Justin Smoak hit another home run — his third in two nights — so that’s a positive sign.
“We’ve played games like this against these teams all year,” Smoak said. “We were talking earlier today about how many one-run games we’ve lost and how many we’ve won this year.
“It’s just one of those things where the more we play them, I guess the more comfortable we get with them. There’s no panic button. Whether we’re down by a run or up by a run. It’s always better to come out on top, though.”
And that coming out on top part won’t happen until the team shows better execution at the plate.
No team is perfect. But the Mariners simply aren’t good enough to waste chances the way the Angels have at times this series. The Angels can make up for it in other ways. The Mariners simply don’t have the firepower.
And until they do, they will have to take better advantage of the limited chances they do get.