July 26, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Mariners just couldn’t get the hits when needed against left-handers
This was a tough one to lose for a Mariners team that, with all of its strong play of late, remains five games under .500 with a tough road trip looming next week to Boston and Baltimore. In other words, it can’t afford to blow games to teams like the Minnesota Twins when they have a one-run lead and Felix Hernandez on the mound with one out to go.
Hernandez was exceptional tonight, but his hitters, unfortunately, were not. They gave him just a lone run of support for the 92nd time in his career. And it was nearly enough until that tying single in the ninth by Trevor Plouffe on a changeup that Hernandez said he left “just a little bit up.”
After that, the non-hits continued in the clutch for the Mariners and Chris Colabello finally snapped a 1-1 tie in the top of the 13th with his first career homer, a two-run blast off Yoervis Medina. It was the first home run Medina has given up in the big leagues and wound up the difference in this 3-2 loss.
The Mariners made it interesting with the Kendrys Morales homer in the bottom of the 13th and a Kyle Seager single with nobody out still. But then Justin Smoak hit into a doule play — again, the lack of clutch hitting — and the game ended soon after.
For all the good the Mariners have done hitting-wise this month, this was the third time in five games they’ve scored two runs or fewer. They also had that crazy win in Houston where they scored four runs with help from just one hit all night. So, that’s four games in a week that have seen the offense really struggle and many of those contests featured lefthand pitchers holding them in-check.
Tonight, it was Twins southpaw Scott Diamond and a slew of lefty relievers doing the trick.
“They’ve got some good lefties down there and they stuck with them for good reason,’’ Mariners manager Robby Thompson said. “Once again, we struggled tonight with the lefty starter and the bullpen coming in.’’
Thompson said his team is pretty stacked with left-handed position players right now and there isn’t much that can be done about that. He said the team’s right-handed hitters need to step up a bit more.
The Mariners should also be getting right-handed hitters Michael Morse and Franklin Gutierrez back shortly.
For now, they’ll have to try to hold it together until they do.
Hernandez dazzled with his changeup tonight, using it to get a fair number of his 11 strikeouts.
“It was helping me real good,’’ he said. “The breaking ball was working way better, too. The only thing was the changeup up in the ninth. That was the only problem.’’
I asked Hernandez whether he feels similar to last year at this time, right before he went on that run that saw him dominate opponents in July and through August — throwing his perfect game in the middle of that second month. He agreed that he does feel similarly strong, which can only bode well for the Mariners — provided they score when he’s pitching.
“Physically, I feel pretty good,’’ Hernandez said. “I’ve been feeling strong. This was just one of those tough games that we lost.’’