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August 17, 2013 at 9:57 PM

Mariners give the Rangers too many extra outs in a pair of big innings

Sure, this game looks like a complete demolition on the scoreboard and it’s hard to spin anything positive out of a 15-3 loss to the Texas Rangers. I won’t even try, because you play the game for nine innings and two terrible frames out of nine will often be enough to make a huge difference.

So, it doesn’t matter that it was still only a 5-3 game with two out in the seventh because what wound up sinking the Mariners on the scoreboard tonight were the same issues that have dogged them all season.

Plays not made on defense.

Poor relief pitching late.

Offense not capitalizing on opportunities.

The Mariners had their chances to get back in this thing for five innings before the roof finally caved in on Oliver Perez in the seventh and eighth.

But a leadoff double by Raul Ibanez in the fourth went nowhere and neither did a leadoff walk to Henry Blanco in the fifth.

Felix Hernandez looked awful in the second inning, but he wasn’t helped by Dustin Ackley allowing a ball to drop in front of him with the bases loaded and one out that probably should have been caught. Ackley said he got the best jump possible on the ball, which may be true, but I can’t help thinking Michael Saunders or somebody else might have gotten there a lot sooner.

When it appeared he wouldn’t get there in time, Ackley opted to play it conservatively.

“It was just one of those situations where, with Felix on the mound, if you lay out and the ball gets by you, there are a couple of guys that are going to score.

“It’s one of those situations where I was really in-between.”

Look, it’s tough to blame Ackley for not really being all that comfortable as a center fielder yet. The issue is whether he can break for balls quickly enought to get to them and not make diving an issue. The Mariners continue to say Ackley has looked great as a center fielder but of course they’re going to say that, not wanting to weaken potential trade value.

I guess the way we’ll know whether they see him as a legit center fielder going forward is if he’s playing that position on Opening Day of 2014.

“It was similar to the one the other night in Tampa,’’ interim Mariners manager Robby Thompson said. “He’s probably wondering whether he should have dove for it. But in that situation, if he dives and he misses it and it gets by him, it all breaks loose from there. Once again, he’s out there learning each and every day.’’

The problem is, though, he’s out there learning while Felix Hernandez is trying to win a Cy Young Award and Ackley’s learning curve tonight didn’t do his ace any favors as he labored through mechanical issues in the second inning. Hernandez wound up allowing five runs by the time the inning was done and his ERA climbed from 2.28 to 2.47 in just one game.

Hernandez’s ERA will be critical to his Cy Young hopes, as it was three years ago when he won only 13 games. Hernandez is 12-6 and should win more than 13 this year, but Max Scherzer of the Tigers is already 17-1.

So, Hernandez will have to really outdistance Scherzer in ERA (he’s at 2.75) to stand a chance of getting voters to overlook the win-loss mark — which isn’t everything, granted, but 17-1 or 22-1, or 24-3 is going to be a tough record for voters to look past without a real good reason.

The inning wasn’t all Ackley’s fault, as Hernandez was flying open with his mechanics and didn’t get them corrected until the damage was done. But the non-catch changed the entire complexion of the inning. You had lumbering Mitch Moreland at third base, so it’s likely he doesn’t try scoring on that Jurickson Profar flyball if Ackley catches it in shallow right center.

So, instead of a 2-0 lead for Hernandez with the bases loaded and two out, it was 2-1 with the bases loaded and only one out. That changes the entire complexion of things.

I asked Ackley whether his lack of reps in center were causing him to be somewhat indecisive on the whole diving thing.

“I think the more balls you get out there, the more you’re able to read what you can get to and what you can’t,’’ Ackley said. “I haven’t had many diving opportunities out there, so it’s kind of hard to judge what balls you can get to and what balls you can’t.’’

Fair enough. It is what it is at this stage.

And it was what it was in the eighth. There were about four grounders that were hit places where the Mariners had a tough time making plays anyplace. There were maybe a couple that could have been executed better and that Brendan Ryan throwing error on what should have been an inning-ending double play prolonged the 37-minute frame and led to three more runs.

The Mariners had dispatched Endy Chavez to warm up in the bullpen in case they had to pull a depleted Charlie Furbush by the time it was done.

The bullpen is in tough shape heading into the finale tomorrow. Not a good night for the Mariners, tight as the score was in the seventh.



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