By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Things went downhill from the very first pitch for Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday.
Toronto’s Jose Reyes sent that first pitch over the right-centerfield wall, and the Blue Jays were on their way to a 7-2 win, thrilling their many fans among the crowd of 28,198 at Safeco Field.
“It was a struggle,” Hernandez said. “I fell behind from the beginning — a leadoff home run. That was a tough thing.”
Seattle’s implosion came quickly. The Mariners were down 1-0 after one, 4-0 after four, and 6-0 after five, when Hernandez gave way to the reworked bullpen.
Hernandez (11-5) wasn’t helped by the Seattle defense, which recorded three errors behind him and another after he left.
“It happens. It’s baseball,” he said. “That’s part of the game. I made a couple of mistakes and fell behind a lot and they capitalized and scored some runs.”
The Mariners’ ace gave up nine hits and walked three while throwing 101 pitches over five innings. It was his first loss since May 25 and his shortest outing since June 20.
“He wasn’t getting a whole lot off the corner — it seemed like it was a pretty tight strike zone,” acting manager Robby Thompson said. “And when he did miss, he missed out and over the plate, and then he was hit. Even with the sloppy defense we’ve seen a sharper Felix, obviously. But, hey, we’re all human.”
First out of the Seattle bullpen was Carter Capps, who had been recalled from Class AAA Tacoma earlier in the day. He allowed one unearned run on two hits with two strikeouts and a walk over two innings.
“He was better,” Thompson said. “He settled down. He was good. His secondary stuff was a little better, and that would be a plus for him.”
Meanwhile, the Seattle defense was all thumbs all night. Third baseman Kyle Seager had two errors over the first four innings, shortstop Brad Miller added one, and finally there was a short, bounced, misdirected throw from left fielder Raul Ibanez in the seventh inning that will be seen on blooper reels for years to come.
“Just an overall sloppy game,” Thompson said. “Anytime you give these clubs that really are offensive-minded clubs — the Red Sox, Baltimore, these guys here — you give them extra outs, that’s not a good thing.”
It all added up to far more than the Seattle offense could overcome against Toronto (53-60) starter Josh Johnson (2-8) and three relievers.
“(Johnson) was definitely much better,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “… I think we saw more curveballs and sliders. He was sticking with it much better. He gave up some hits and he gave up some where he had some base runners on, but he worked out of some jams.”
Johnson left after five shutout innings.
Seattle (52-61) finally got its two runs in the seventh when Miller launched a triple just off the tip of the glove of Toronto center fielder Colby Rasmus, scoring Justin Smoak and Henry Blanco. It was Miller’s fourth triple of the season, tops among American League rookies.
Otherwise, the offensive highlights were two-hit nights by Miller and Kendrys Morales.
Second baseman Nick Franklin, back in the lineup after a couple of days off for a physical and mental break, went 0-for-3, running his hitless streak to 27 at bats.
“You hope he comes right out of it,” Thompson said. “But you stick with him. That’s part of the growing pains of a young player coming up is learning how to deal with the failure. You go into slumps and you’ve got to fight your way out of it. This is where he’s going to maintain, and grind it out and stay positive. He’ll get it back soon. Until then, if he’s not getting hits he should be out there taking hits away, or trying to anyway.”