BY SPNW Staff 07:25PM 05/26/2012

Pinch-hit grand slam off Felix crushes Mariners

The Mariners found another freakish way to lose a game — a pinch-hit grand slam. Off Felix Hernandez.

On Throw Back the Clock day Saturday afternoon at Safeco Field, he threw up the game.

Alberto Callaspo, a 5-foot-9 infielder hitting .234 for the season (6 for his last 26 ABs), with one previous home run, jacked a two-seam fastball from Hernandez that was well inside,  into the left field stands. It turned 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead that stood for the Angels’ third win in three games in the series, this one 5-3.

Hernandez gave up 10 hits and five runs in six innings with seven strikeouts, another game where his best stuff was lacking. But until the sixth, he seemed to be all right, giving up only a fourth-inning home run to Albert Pujols, a rocket over the Mariners’ bullpen in left center.  It was Pujols third in the three games against Seattle, and seventh of the year, as well as his 17th RBI in the Angels’ past 17 games.

Mark Trumbo led off the sixth with a single to the shortstop hole and Howie Kendrick followed with a single to left. Erick Aybar attempted a sacrifice bunt that was so good he was safe at first, loading the bases. After an out, Angels manager Mike Scioscia called on Callaspo, a lefty, to hit for catcher Bobby Wilson. The move was masterful, turning the game upside down. Hernandez’s career record against the Angels fell to 6-10.

The Mariners went up 2-1 in the fifth on a double by John Jaso and singles by Mike Carp and Dustin Ackley. The Mariners got one back in the sixth on a solo home run by Justin Smoak, his second in two games.

But nothing else developed as the Angels won their fifth in a row.

BRANDON LEAGUE DEMOTED — After blowing another save Friday night, Brandon League was removed from the closer’s role for now. Manager Eric Wedge said he and pitching coach Carl Willis talked to League before Saturday’s game against the Angels.

A day after saying no moves would be made unless a replacement were available, Wedge made a move without a replacement.

“We’re going to pull him back a little bit and give him some opportunities outside that closing role and work to get him back on track,” Wedge said. “Very similar to what we did last year. I would say that worked well for him and for us. So we talked to him about that and a couple little things we feel like he needs to do. He’s very understanding about that.

“I feel like it’s best for Brandon and I feel like it’s best for the team right now. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a couple steps forward.”

Last season, League blew three saves and gave up the lead in a tie game in four consecutive appearances, from May 8-13. Wedge pulled him out of the closer role and pitched him a in a non-save situation before reinstating him as the closer. League went on to become an All-Star and ended the season with 37 saves.

“I’m not going to get into the details of what and why, but there’s a couple things he needs to do, and he knows it,” Wedge said. “He’s a good worker. Last year, he made some good adjustments, and I anticipate him doing so this year.”

Wedge will use a closer-by-committee approach, saying everyone could be called upon except League and long reliever Hisashi Iwakuma. No other pitcher has a save this season.


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