M’s-A’s: Sunday postgame thoughts

Rants from a 4-2 loss to Oakland:

There are the early pleasantries — Mariners take a 2-0 lead and Felix Hernandez looks like he’ll face the minimum through three innings

There are the middle-inning moments of nervousness — M’s don’t take advantage of chances to add to that lead and Felix is starting to look human. You realize this game is far from decided

Then there are the final two fateful innings — Poor at-bats squander what little opportunity remains offensively, and there are curious decisions on when to pull Hernandez and who replaces him in relief..

Where do you begin with this one?

Let’s not focus on the real reason this game (and so many others so far) was lost: an incomplete offense that needs in the least a left-handed hitter like Jeff Clement rakikng, or at least a left-handed hitter like Brad Wilkerson raking like Clement can.

I’m more intrigued by the pitching decisions in the eighth inning. After all, whether the score is 2-0 or 10-8, if this bullpen is as strong as the Mariners (and I) believe it can be, then a two-run lead should have been enough at that point. The idea is to hand a lead to those guys and let them get six outs.

Hernandez stayed out too long. He had a 2-0 lead after seven masterful innings and went back out for the eighth, as he should have. However, at the first sign of fatigue, why not get him out of there? It seemed he wasn’t controlling his fastball like he had earlier, his curve was starting to hang, and before he knew it, the bases were loaded. Looked like a tired pitcher to me, and a perfect time to hand this game to the bullpen.

Instead, Hernandez told his pitching coach he was strong and he stayed out. Then he hung another curve and Emil Brown stung it for a two-run single, tying the score.

There stil wasn’t anybody out, the A’s had runners on first and second, and what the M’s needed more than anything was a strikeout, a double play or both. Sean Green, with his sinker, is the best guy in the bullpen at getting a ground ball for a double play, but it was Brandon Morrow who was ready. He did get a strikeout, but that was in the midst of a walk and two RBI singles that put the A’s ahead 4-2. Green did appear, getting that strikeout the M’s had needed and, in the ninth, a double-play grounder. Too late.

Afterward, manager John McLaren described how missed opportunities early in a game often come back to haunt a team late. What the Mainers hope is that victories squandered in April don’t haunt them in September.

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