Bullpen and offense let down Mariners, while Felix Hernandez was Felix Hernandez.
Here are three quick thoughts from the Mariners’ 2-1 loss Sunday to the Oakland A’s in extra innings:
1. Two culprits: The bullpen and the offense
When Mariners manager Scott Servais talked before Sunday’s game, he mostly talked about one thing: His offense and the collective lack of production from that group.
The Mariners had four hits and two runs on Friday. They had five hits and one run on Saturday. They didn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position in either game.
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So Servais talked about the need for the bats to break out, which isn’t what happened on Sunday.
With the Mariners down 2-1, Kyle Seager led off the 10th inning with a double. But Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and pinch-hitter Dae-Ho Lee stranded him there. That’s how it went and how it has gone.
The Mariners scattered six hits across 10 innings, and they scored their only run of the game on an error by second baseman Jed Lowrie, his third error of the series.
Before the game, Servais said, “We’ve got to score runs. At the end of the day, we have to score a few more runs, we’ve got to create more opportunities, we’ve got to put the ball in play a little bit more consistently.”
They didn’t do that, and it left the game in the hands of their bullpen.
Reliever Joel Peralta gave up the lead in the eighth inning when he allowed a solo home run. And Nick Vincent surrendered the fatal shot, a solo homer to Coco Crisp in the 10th inning.
2. Felix was Felix.
An ace shoulders many responsibilities, and a king even more. So Felix Hernandez has always accepted the pressure of being his team’s stopper in hard times.
“That’s my job,” Hernandez said last year. “I’m the ace and when we need a win, it’s my job to go out there and get it done.”
Usually that has meant stopping losing streaks, of which there have been plenty over the last decade. But Sunday wasn’t so much about stopping a losing streak as avoiding severe disappointment to start a new season and new regime.
Hernandez did his part. He pitched seven scoreless innings, struck out 10 and retired the 10 batters he faced. Just as important, he walked only two batters (He walked five in the opener, an alarming number for him).
He really only faced true trouble once, in the third inning. The first two A’s reached base, and Felix loaded the bases with two outs. But although he flirted with danger, it never turned into anything more.
It was exactly the kind of start the Mariners needed from their ace, which leads us to …
3. The decision to pull Hernandez
Hernandez had thrown 99 pitches after seven innings. Manager Scott Servais elected to turn the game over to his bullpen and bring in reliever Joel Peralta.
Peralta gave up solo home run to Marcus Semien, the first batter he faced in the eighth inning, tying the game at one.
At 99 pitches, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that Hernandez could come return for the eighth. But in the past, the Mariners have tried to keep Hernandez fresh later in the season by limiting him at the beginning.
This being an initial reaction immediately after the game, we haven’t heard from Servais yet so we’ll update when we hear his explanation.