It’s not often that Felix Hernandez throws a clinker, but he checked in with one Sunday morning and, predictably, the Mariners could not compensate in what became a 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Seattle (20-24) has lost a season-high tying three in a row to the Tribe after taking two of three from the Yankees in New York.
This has been a nightmarish visit to Lake Erie for the Mariners, who earlier this week briefly moved into second place in the AL West. They lost back-to-back games Friday and Saturday on walk-off hits, and Sunday, despite striking out eight in five innings, Hernandez just didn’t have it.
In his shortest outing of the year, he yielded a double to the first batter he faced, trailed 2-0 at the end of one, and gave up a three-run bomb in the second. That put the kabosh on his start and ended his winning streak at four games, with one no-decision.
The five earned runs allowed by Hernandez marked a season high — in fact, he had allowed just four earned runs total in his past six starts.
Even had Hernandez pitched well, he didn’t receive any run support and wouldn’t have been able to win anyway after yielding the two, first-inning runs. By the time he departed, the Mariners had gotten to Cleveland starter Justin Masterson for just three hits, none for extra bases. The Mariners ended with four while striking out 11 times.
Seattle also left nine men stranded and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Masterson worked 7.0 innings and only walked two in improving to 7-2. He threw 108 pitches, 68 for strikes.
Fernandez struggled uncharacteristically in the first when he gave up a leadoff double to Michael Bourn, who scored on Michael Brantley’s single. Brantley then scored on a fielding error by Justin Smoak, Smoak’s first of the season. The Indians subsequently got runners to second and third, but Hernandez escaped further harm by fanning Mark Reynolds.
He wasn’t so lucky in the second when, with two outs, and following singles by Bourn and Jason Kipnis, he surrendered a three-run homer to Brantley, giving Cleveland a 5-0 lead.
The Indians made it 6-0 in the fourth on doubles by Mike Aviles and Kipnis, effectively ending Hernandez’s day. He lasted just 5.0 innings, allowed five earned runs on six hits, struck out eight, walked two and fell to 5-3. His ERA shot up from 1.53 to 2.07.
In the ninth, the Mariners got runners at the corners with two outs, but Brendan Ryan whiffed for the third time, ending the game.
The Mariners had gone 5-0-1 in their last six series (now 5-1-1) after starting the season 0-5-2.
The Mariners close out the four-game series Monday morning with Hisashi Iwakuma (5-1, 1.84) facing Scott Kazmir (2-2, 5.33). The Mariners have now lost three in a row for the third time this season, and another setback Monday in the series finale would be a season high.
The Mariners then fly to Anaheim for a two-game series with the Angels (Tuesday, Wednesday). Following a day off Thursday, Seattle will open a three-game series against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field Friday.
NOTES: RHP Aaron Harang threw before Sunday’s game and manager Eric Wedge said he believes that everything is on track for Harang to make his next scheduled start, Tuesday in Anaheim. Harang missed his last start with back stiffness . . . When Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak hit back-to-back, two-out home runs in the ninth inning Saturday against the Indians, it was the first time in club history that had occurred to tie a game in the ninth inning or later . . . Sunday’s 6-0 shutout was Seattle’s the third blanking of the year.