By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Stop if you’re heard the one about the Seattle Mariners offense, though as old as the complaints are getting, they’re still valid.
A night after playing 18 innings and scoring twice in a loss to Baltimore, Seattle wasted eight superb innings from Felix Hernandez, went into extra innings again Wednesday and lost in 11 to the Baltimore Orioles, 3-1.
That’s three Mariners runs in 29 innings.
And yes, because these are the Mariners, there’s a little extra bitterness to the brew — the man who beat them with a two-run home run in the 11th inning was former Seattle prospect Adam Jones.
It was his 30th home run, or a dozen more than Seattle team leader Kyle Seager.
After back-to-back winning months pulled them into position to finish strong, the Mariners have hit a September wall much harder than they hit the baseball.
They’ve gone 6-11 so far this month and now sit at 70-80 with 12 games remaining in 2012.
Asked to stop a stretch in which the Mariners had lost five of six games, Hernandez did all he was capable of — he held Baltimore in check for eight innings.
Yes, he allowed a run, but even that wasn’t entirely his doing. With two outs and Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis at first base in the fourth inning, Mark Reynolds singled into center field.
Davis scored from first base when center fielder Franklin Gutierrez ran the ball down, and when shortstop Brendan Ryan took his relay throw, he seemed surprised that Davis was heading for the plate.
Ryan threw home, but Davis slid in ahead of it and Baltimore had the only run Hernandez would allow.
In the bottom of the same inning, the Mariners unleashed another of their one-swing-and-good-night offensive attacks — a long Gutierrez home run that tied it.
In an 18-inning loss Tuesday, Seattle got a two-run homer from Miguel Olivo after a Casper Wells walk. Period.
This time, with Hernandez doing everything but bat, the Mariners couldn’t get him a second run, denying him any chance at a 14th win Wednesday.
On the mound, he took care of business, working around six hits, not walking a batter and striking out eight to pass the 200 mark again — he finished the night with 207 strikeouts in 220 2⁄3 innings.
After eight innings, however, he’d thrown 103 pitches, all of them under duress since any one of them could have beaten him.
When the ninth inning began, Hernandez stayed in the dugout and closer Tom Wilhelmsen went to the mound.
A man who has pitched five shutouts in his 31 starts this season, Hernandez has pitched at least eight innings — and allowed no more than one run — 12 times this year.
In those games, he’s 8-0 with four no-decisions.
The problem, of course, wasn’t with the pitching.
Want to win games in the American League? Score more than three runs in 29 innings.
Playing at home, with amazing starting pitching the last two nights, the Mariners had the chance to win both games, impact the postseason race and pad their own win-loss record.
As it has all season, their offense let them down.
Yes, there was another popped up sacrifice bunt attempt — the third in two nights, this one by Miguel Olivo in the 10th inning.
But few teams win with small ball when their offense is this small.
One inning with two hits all night?
Only one inning, the 10th, where Seattle’s first batter reached base?
After going 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, the Mariners didn’t get many at-bats in that situation this time, but failed in those they got, going 0-for-4.
The most painful opportunity? Seattle loaded the bases with two outs in the 10th inning for Gutierrez. He popped out to shortstop.
Once Hernandez was done, the Mariners got two scoreless innings from closer Wilhelmsen, who also pitched two innings Tuesday. Josh Kinney worked the 11th, and was tagged by Jones.
In the bottom of the 11th, with only the remnants of a Safeco Field crowd of 14,001 still in-house, the Mariners opened up with consecutive singles from Seager and Jesus Montero.
A can’t miss rally? It missed.
Justin Smoak grounded into a double play and, with Seager at third base, Michael Saunders walked to bring the potential winning run to the plate in pinch hitter John Jaso.
Saunders was caught stealing to end the game.