Felix Hernandez made only one pitch that really cost him and it wasn’t even all that terrible. Hernandez threw a changeup to Chris Nelson that was mostly low and on the outer part of home plate in the second inning. But not low enough .
Nelson drilled the ball over the left field wall for a two-run homer and the 21,616 fans at Safeco Field could have left early at that point because no more scoring would take place. The Mariners lose it 2-0 to the Los Angeles Angels on a night Eric Wedge made his managerial return from a stroke.
“It was a little disappointing,” Hernandez said. “I was trying to win this one for him.”
And though he didn’t do it, it wasn’t from a lack of trying. The Angels managed just three hits off Hernandez in his six innings and at 104 pitches, he was ready to go seven. If that happens, everybody is talking about what a dominant performance it was, because he had 10 strikeouts and really limited the damage enough to win with any kind of offense.
But Wedge didn’t want to push Hernandez that far, this late in the season.
“We thought about it briefly,” Wedge said. “But where we are in the season, if I send him out there, I’m going to want him to go out there and finish his own inning. Now, you’re talking about throwing 120, 120-plus pitches in seven innings. It’s a different story in seven innings than it is in nine innings. It’s a different story when you’re down 2-0 versus being up 2-0, too.”
Wedge said being back in the dugout took him a while to get used to.
“Early on, it did,” he said. “But as the game wore on, I felt more and more comfortable. And then, by the end of the game, I felt like I was right there. I wasn’t sure how my energy was going to be, but my energy was right there. The focus was good. We just didn’t have a hell of a lot of action tonight.”
He allowed just four hits and had thrown only 89 pitches by the time he was pulled one out into the eighth inning after being struck by a hard shot to his forearm that caused a contusion. But the Angels bullpen came on and finished the job, helping Richards improve to 4-5.
Wedge seemed to feel his offense helped Richard as well.
“I think that’s going to be one of the final steps for us, offensively as a ballclub,” Wedge said. “To be able to stay away from these inconsistencies and just to put up better ABs and grind out better ABs and be tougher outs. Where even if you’re not scoring runs, you’re driving up pitch counts and doing something to make it difficult for the other team
“We’ve had moments of that, albeit inconsistent. So, that’s something I’d like to see us do better with over the last five weeks.”
Mariners shortstop Brad Miller had two of the four hits off Richards.
“He’s got a live arm,” Miller said. “It just dives and cuts. I thought he did a pretty good job the second or third time through using that curveball, keeping us off-balance. He pitched a great game.”
Miller said there was only one way to try to combat that.
“You just try tobe aggressive,” he said. “You know his stuff is…I saw a couple of fastballs tonight that were diving, some were cutting. So, yeah, you just try to see him in the middle and go with it.”
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