By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
ANAHEIM, Calif.— Felix Hernandez added another niche Saturday night to his growing legacy, and all it did was serve as prologue for the Seattle Mariners turning the tables on the Los Angeles Angels.
Logan Morrison’s RBI double in the 12th inning keyed a two-run brace that lifted the Mariners to a 3-2 victory at Angel Stadium, where they have suffered 11 walk-off losses since 2009.
The most recent one came Friday in 16 innings.
“That was a tough one,” third baseman Kyle Seager said, “but you’ve got to bounce back. You hope you don’t go into extra innings, but our bullpen has done a phenomenal job the last couple of days.”
What a grind, though.
Seager opened the 12th against Joe Thatcher (0-1) with a drive that sliced away from center fielder Mike Trout for a double. Morrison followed with a slicing double that landed just fair down the left-field line.
“I was trying to pull that ball,” Morrison admitted. “I blacked out, and I’m glad it freakin’ got down, found a hole — whatever it did — and scored a run.”
After Mike Morin replaced Thatcher, Endy Chavez batted for Corey Hart and put down a bunt that turned into a single when it refused to roll foul along the third-base line. Morrison moved to third.
Dustin Ackley struck out as Chavez stole second, which prompted an intentional walk to Brad Miller that loaded the bases with one out.
Justin Smoak batted for Jesus Sucre, who drove in the Mariners’ earlier run, and squirted an infield single to third that scored pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist.
“Oh, no doubt (it was going to stay fair),” Smoak deadpanned. “When they shift you, and you nub one down there, you somewhat deserve it.”
Dominic Leone (3-2) got the victory for pitching a scoreless 11th but exited after yielding a leadoff homer in the Angels’ 12th to David Freese.
Charlie Furbush got the final three outs, and the save, because closer Fernando Rodney pitched earlier in the game. Danny Farquhar was unavailable.
Hernandez yielded one unearned run in seven innings. It came in the seventh, his final inning, and it came after the started the inning with two walks. We’ll get to that.
Even so …
It was Hernandez’s 12th straight start of pitching at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer runs. That’s only been done once before in AL history: Hall of Famer Chief Bender in 1907 for the Philadelphia A’s.
“When you go out there,” Hernandez said, “you’ve just got to make pitches and try to get people out.”
Some just do it better than others.
The victory enabled the Mariners, at 52-45, to maintain two-game lead over Cleveland in the battle for the AL’s final wild-card spot.
Hernandez’s final line showed one unearned run and two hits in seven innings with nine strikeouts and four walks. He lowered his ERA to 2.02.
“He does the same thing, basically, every time he goes out there,” Smoak said. “He’s fun to play behind and fun to watch.”
Los Angeles starter Garrett Richards was nearly as good as Hernandez, although he permitted one earned run in eight innings. Richards gave up three hits, struck out seven and walked one.
“When he puts it all together,” Morrison said, “that’s what you get. We know our pitching is going to keep us in the game, especially when we’ve got Felix on the mound.”
The Mariners, privately, also suspected Richards might have doctored the ball, but they didn’t take any action during the game.
Hernandez carried a 1-0 lead into the seventh but started the inning by walking Albert Pujols on 11 pitches. Pujols fouled off five straight full-count pitches before Hernandez missed with a slider.
A five-pitch walk to Josh Hamilton put runners on first and second with no outs.
“That was terrible,” Hernandez said. “My bad. That’s not me.”
It soon turned worse.
Hernandez got Howie Kendrick to hit a slow hopper back up the middle. Off the bat, it appeared to be a possible double-play ball.
Miller hesitated before making a diving stop. Second baseman Robinson Cano didn’t get to the base. Miller made a belated throw to first from his knees — and bounced it past Morrison.
Result: Pujols scored, and Hamilton wound up at third. The official scoring credited Kendrick with a single and charged Miller with an error that permitted Pujols and Hamilton to gain an extra base. No RBI.
The game was tied, which is how it stayed until the 12th.
“You keep giving us enough opportunities,” Morrison said, “we’ll come through. Honestly, it felt like all we needed was one.”