By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas — It started off bad, got worse and turned into a disaster.
The pop culture slang of the day would refer to it as “a dumpster fire” or “a tire fire.” But really, it was just a brutal, frustrating loss for the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark.
Very little went right for the Mariners as they were routed by the Texas Rangers 15-3. Felix Hernandez was mediocre, the hitting was spotty, the defense shaky and the bullpen gave up 10 runs, including eight runs in the eighth inning that lasted 37 minutes where Seattle relievers threw a total of 61 pitches.
Seattle has been routed before. But this loss is something the Mariners want to erase from their mind immediately.
“Hopefully everyone forgets about this one quickly as possible,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “You look back it was five to three with two outs in the seventh inning.”
But that third out in the seventh didn’t come immediately. Oliver Perez, who has struggled of late, hung a slider to pinch-hitter Craig Gentry with runners on second and third. Gentry hammered it down the line for a two-run double to make it 7-3 and effectively put the game out of reach.
It went from out of reach to impossible the eighth inning when the Rangers scored eight runs off the combination of Perez and Charlie Furbush. They did so with three infield hits and another fielded ground ball that didn’t result in an out. There was also a booted double play ball. Nothing went right.
“There were four balls that never left the infield that were just out of reach,” Thompson said. “And the double play ball was probably the easiest ball of the inning and we didn’t make the play.”
It was so bad Thompson had outfielder Endy Chavez preparing to warm up to pitch if the inning were to continue much longer.
The eight-run eighth just made the score look worse. There was almost a feel of finality after the second inning when the Rangers continued their hard-hitting ways against Hernandez.
Texas seems to have figured out something that no other team in baseball can do against the Mariners’ ace — hit him.
The Rangers scored five runs in the second inning off Hernandez (12-6) and really that was all they needed.
There isn’t any real secret to it. Texas hitters try to wait Hernandez out. They won’t chase early borderline pitches trying to get ahead and force situations where he does have to come into the strike zone. And they never seem to miss his mistakes.
“They do everything,” Hernandez said. “They take a lot of pitches. They have a good approach. I wasn’t able to throw strikes. I was flat and up. And I wasn’t able to get ahead.”
And it’s not just the bashers like Adrian Beltre and the recently suspended Nelson Cruz, who do damage against Hernandez. It’s also ordinary players like David Murphy, who is hitting .225 on the season, but came into the game hitting .324 (23-for-71) with three homers and 14 RBI off of Hernandez for his career. And it was Murphy that would end up delivering the big blow in the decisive second inning.
It all started with innocently enough. Seattle had a 2-0 lead, scoring runs in each of the first two innings.
Beltre led off the bottom of the second with a single to center off of Hernandez. Alex Rios followed with a single to center and then Hernandez walked Mitch Moreland to load the bases with no outs.
Hernandez came back to strike out Geovany Soto. However, Jurickson Profar hit a soft liner into center field. Dustin Ackley charged the ball but couldn’t quite get there and let it drop in for a single. Only one run scored and the bases remained loaded as Ackley got the ball in quickly.
“I got a pretty good jump about as good as I could,” Ackley said. “With Felix on the mound, and you lay out and that ball gets by you, a couple guys are going to score. It was a really in-between ball. I think that was the biggest thing is keep the double play in order.”
Murphy then upped his career average against Hernandez, blasting a double over Ackley’s head and off the wall in center to score two more runs to push it to 3-1. Leonys Martin then squeeze bunted a run home and Elvis Andrus followed with an RBI single through the right side to make it 5-1. Hernandez got two ground ball outs to finally end the misery. But the damage was done. The five runs tied a season high of most runs allowed in an inning for Hernandez.
“It was mechanics,” Hernandez said. “My front shoulder was opening too much and I was too quick to home plate. That’s what happened.”
Facing a team he needed to be special against, Hernandez was somewhat ordinary. He lasted just five innings, giving up five runs on five hits with five walks and just four strikeouts.
In four starts this season against Texas, Hernandez is 0-3 with a 5.55 ERA. For his career, Hernandez is now 12-19 against the Rangers with a 3.94 ERA.
“For the most part that’s a veteran club over there,” Thompson said. “Some teams try to attack him early, other teams try to wait him out. Most of the times, the veteran teams and good offensive clubs try to wait him out and get him behind in the count.”
Seattle trimmed the lead to 5-3 on Kyle Seager’s 19th homer of the season, a solo shot off of Rangers starter Martin Perez. But that was all the offense the Mariners would muster. Perez (6-3) pitched seven innings giving up the three runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts.