DETROIT — “Strained oblique” are two of the cruelest words in baseball. It is an injury that rarely permits a quick recovery and typically forces the player to miss at least a month and often longer.
Rookie right fielder Mitch Haniger suffered a strained oblique Tuesday on a swing in the third inning of what was already turning into a shambles for the Seattle Mariners in a 19-9 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
“Dead arm” can mean a lot of things. That’s how manager Scott Servais explained Felix Hernandez’s exit after just two innings. It’s a shoulder problem, severity to be determined.
So a pretty rotten night.
“As a player,” second baseman Robinson Cano said, “the (result of) the game doesn’t really matter when you lose two guys. Haniger has been our best hitter all year, and then your No. 1 starter (in Hernandez).
“Those are guys you don’t want to lose. We know we lost the game. They beat us. Right now, you’re not thinking about the game. You’re hoping things don’t get worse with Felix and Haniger.”
The Mariners confirmed Haniger’s injury shortly after he left the game but did not comment on its severity. Oblique strains often don’t initially appear serious, but the recovery period almost always lingers.
“Hopefully, it’s a quick return and not too big of a setback,” Haniger said. “It just grabbed at my side. I’ve never had a history with this. I don’t have issues as far as soft-tissue stuff goes.
“The day after that guys (have) this type of injury is the biggest teller. The next day, the first 24 hours. So (on Wednesday) I think we’ll have a better idea of what the plan is.”
Hernandez chose not to talk after the game — a rarity for him, which suggests he’s unusually upset at the injury. Servais said both players are “probably” going to head back to Seattle for further evaluations.
“Felix had some tightness in his shoulder when he went out for the second inning,” Servais said. “It’s kind of like a dead-arm situation. We’re going to have him checked out by doctors as well.”
It was an encouraging start. Jean Segura returned from the disabled list by whacking Jordan Zimmermann’s first-pitch fastball to left for a single.
Segura moved to second on Haniger’s bunt single, and both runners moved up on Cano’s fly to left. Nelson Cruz’s fly to deep right produced a 1-0 lead before Taylor Motter drove an RBI single to left.
So two quick runs for Hernandez.
Hernandez gave one run back in a shaky first inning but held the lead by stranding runners at second and third when Alex Avila took a third strike.
It was a short reprieve.
Jim Adduci opened the Detroit second with a single, and James McCann followed by turning on a 1-2 fastball for a 366-foot homer to right.
The Tigers led 3-2, and they weren’t done.
Ian Kinsler and Tyler Collins produced successive one-out singles, which put runners on first and third. Hernandez then bounced a run-scoring wild pitch past catcher Mike Zunino.
By then, Chris Heston was throwing in the bullpen.
Hernandez finished the inning but, after Haniger’s injury in the top of the third, the Mariners replaced Hernandez with Heston.
That didn’t go at all well.
Heston worked around two singles in the third inning before giving up three runs in the fourth on back-to-back homers by Justin Upton and Avila. That pushed the lead to 7-2.
The Mariners answered in the fifth with their own back-to-back homers, by Segura and Danny Valencia, but the Tigers never blinked. They chased Heston and also beat up Evan Marshall for seven runs later in the inning.
And so on. The Tigers finished with 24 hits.
Expect a series of roster moves prior to Wednesday’s game: a replacement for Haniger and one or two fresh bullpen arms. Maybe more.
Haniger has been the Mariners’ best player in what has been a rocky first three weeks to the 2017 season. He was batting .338 through 21 games while leading the club in runs and RBI.
After lining a two-out single into center, Haniger clearly grimaced as he ran to first base. The pain apparently intensified when he subsequently had to dive back into first base after a pickoff attempt.
First-base coach Casey Candaele signaled to the dugout, which brought trainer Rob Nodine and manager Scott Servais onto the field. Shortly thereafter, Haniger left the field, replaced by Valencia.