Seattle’s bats were bamboozled by White Sox pitching, and, while Felix Hernandez turned in a good performance, this game called for great.
Flailing hitters are a trademark of Felix Hernandez’s Safeco Field starts. Knees wobble, bats wave meekly and defeated foes trudge back to the dugout with chins hanging low.
Related: Box score
There was one significant difference on Friday night: Those bamboozled bats belonged to the Mariners themselves.
Mariners vs. White Sox,
6:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
Chicago lefty Chris Sale outdueled Hernandez in a meeting of American League aces, fanning 14 hitters in seven innings of work. And though Mark Trumbo kept the Mariners within striking distance with a seventh-inning home run, Seattle’s bullpen again imploded as it fell to an 11-4 series-opening defeat on Friday at Safeco.
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“You can’t make any mistakes,” Hernandez said afterward, and Seattle made plenty. “You know it’s going to be a tight game.”
And it was for a while — even though Seattle (56-66) was held hitless for five straight frames following Ketel Marte’s leadoff double in the first.
Sale struck out the side in the first, fanning Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz before getting Robinson Cano looking. He struck out the side again in the fifth, fooling Trumbo and Austin Jackson with breaking balls before freezing Jesus Montero with a two-out heater. Sale reached double-digit strikeouts for the 12th time this season in the bottom of the sixth, fanning Marte for his 10th K, then Seager for No. 11.
Hernandez, meanwhile, was just OK on a night that required great. He flirted with danger from the jump, when Adam Eaton led off the first with a single but was later caught stealing after an umpire review.
Hernandez lasted six innings, laboring through an even 100 pitches. He allowed nine hits plus a walk, surrendering four earned runs and striking out four. The right-hander also didn’t catch many breaks.
“I don’t think they were really peppering him around, hitting him hard,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “… His stuff was coming out crisp. He just elevated a couple of change-ups and they took advantage of it.”
Jackson would have doubled off Tyler Saladino had he been able to get to Jose Abreu’s fourth-inning line drive. Instead, it rolled all the way to the wall and brought Saladino home with the game’s first run.
Marte made a great stop deep in the hole an inning later and had plenty of time to get Alexei Ramirez at third, but his throw to Seager was wide and allowed Ramirez to slide in before the tag. Ramirez scored on Eaton’s single a batter later.
The two backbreaking runs in the sixth, though, were both on Hernandez. He allowed the first two batters to reach base but rallied back with consecutive outs. He again looked set to work his way out of a jam, then gave up a two-run double to Carlos Sanchez down the right-field line — the “one mistake” Hernandez copped to afterward.
The home crowd roared to life in the seventh, when Cruz and Cano led off with consecutive singles and Trumbo crushed a three-run homer to pull Seattle within a run. Yet Sale managed to strike out the side, ending with seven innings, four hits, three earned runs and those 14 K’s.
And if Sale hadn’t totally deflated the crowd by then, the Mariners’ bullpen did it for him a frame later — and ensured that he picked up his 14th win of the season.
“We’re back in it, and in the eighth inning, we imploded,” said McClendon, who got ejected for arguing balls and strikes during Chicago’s four-run rally.
Fernando Rodney allowed two hits and a walk, getting credited for three earned runs. Rob Rasmussen, just called up from AAA Tacoma, walked in a pair of runners. David Rollins threw the ninth inning and gave up three more runs, sending fans toward the exits in droves.
“It’s our job to pick each other up,” Rasmussen said. “We’re a family, a little bit of a fraternity down there. We want to pick each other up, and unfortunately I didn’t get to do that tonight for Fernando. I really wish I would have.”