SEATTLE — Going 9-0 over his last 14 starts, winning three 1-0 games – including a perfect game – Felix Hernandez had made winning look almost too easy for too long.
The Los Angeles Angels fixed that Saturday.
When the Seattle Mariners couldn’t take advantage of point-blank scoring opportunities, then made a critical eighth-inning error, the Angels came from behind to steal a game, 5-2.
“It happens,” Hernandez said.
It shouldn’t have.
Against 11-game loser Ervin Santana and his 5.45 earned run average, the Mariners managed two runs, one of them on Trayvon Robinson’s solo home run.
They had opportunities to pad a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning, when Justin Smoak led off with a double, and in the seventh, when they got pinch-runner Carlos Peguero to second base with one out.
“I had chances to drive in runs in my second and third at-bat and didn’t,” shortstop Brendan Ryan said. “In the fifth inning, I don’t know why (center fielder) Mike Trout was where he was when he caught that ball …”
Trout, the Angels’ Most Valuable Player candidate, made a long run before taking a single and RBI away from Ryan. And it was Trout who got his team started in the eighth inning.
Felix was at 103 pitches and had a 2-1 lead opening that eighth inning. He got ahead of Trout, then watched him ground a single into right field.
“I made good pitches, he hit one into right field,” Hernandez said.
Torii Hunter fell behind in the count, 0-2, but fouled off a few Felix pitches and hit a line drive single into center field to put runners at the corners with no one out.
Manager Eric Wedge brought his infield in, but didn’t pull his starting pitcher.
“Felix was strong, he was in control and he’s been there before,” said Wedge, who had rookie Stephen Pryor warming up. “He’s also one of the best pitchers in the game.”
“I was making good pitches,” Hernandez said.
With the infield in, Albert Pujols grounded sharply toward third base, and Trout broke for the plate. Third baseman Kyle Seager reached for the ball, intent on throwing to the plate for the out.
And missed as the ball rolled by and down into the corner.
“That’s a play I should have made,” Seager said. “I got caught in between hops, but I should definitely have made the play. If I catch the ball, Trout is out.”
Instead, Trout scored the tying run – and the Angels wound up with runners on second and third base, still with no one out.
Kendrys Morales chopped a ball between shortstop and third base and two more runs scored. Hernandez was done, the Angels were ahead and it went downhill from there.
“To have it come down to a broken-bat ground ball that gets through, that’s tough,” Ryan said. “You’d rather it come on a ball someone squared up.”
For Hernandez, the Angels may well be the reason he doesn’t win the American League Cy Young Award. Now 13-6 with a 2.51 earned run average, Felix is 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA in three starts against Los Angeles.
One of the pitchers with a chance to beat him out for the Cy Young Award is Angels’ starter Jered Weaver, who is 16-3 with a 2.85 ERA – and starts against the Mariners today.
Against Dan Haren, Seattle scored one unearned run Friday.
Against Santana, they scored twice Saturday.
Today, they get Weaver.
“It’s frustrating to lose the first two games of this series and be in the salvage mode for the third game,” Ryan said. “It’s a shame we couldn’t do more to support Felix today.”
“We didn’t add on when we had the chance, and that was the key,” Wedge said. “If we get even one run in, it’s a 3-1 game in the eighth and a different situation. Even so, we were in position to win a game in the eighth inning with our best pitcher on the mound.
“They snatched it from us.”
Losing dropped the Mariners to 64-70 with 28 games to play in 2012, with the Angels looking to sweep them away today.
The Mariners offense is struggling again, limited to five hits in this one. On his 25th birthday, Robinson homered in the third inning to tie the game.
Dustin Ackley walked and scored on a Franklin Gutierrez two-out double.
And that was that. Felix has won four 1-0 games this season, so the Mariners may have figured a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning was enough. The Angels showed them it wasn’t.