The return of Kendrys Morales Friday did little to change the Mariners fortunes. Chris Davis greeted reliever Charlie Furbush with a 10th-inning solo home run to send Baltimore to a 2-1 win in front of 34,792 at Safeco Field.
Morales brought home the Mariners’ lone run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning to score Robinson Cano, the man he was brought back to Seattle to protect. He led the inning off with a triple.
Seattle (53-50) continued to struggle offensively, with one hit in 10 at-bats with a runner in scoring position. The loss was Seattle’s fourth consecutive, 10th in its last 14 games and dropped them 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the second American League wild card.
Manager Lloyd McClendon could only shake his head, looking at his team’s fortunes with a glass-half-full mentality.
“This is a tough stretch; it’ll pass,” McClendon said. “It’s not pretty right now.”
Even a 13th consecutive outstanding start from Felix Hernandez couldn’t save the Mariners. The King tied Tom Seaver for most such starts (7 IP, two runs or fewer) in major-league history. Seaver completed his run from July-September 1971.
The Orioles struck in the second inning as Nelson Cruz rocketed a solo home run just inside the left-field foul pole. Hernandez recovered to retire 17 of the next 19 batters, while pitching around two doubles.
“If Seager (had) jumped, he’d have caught it,” said Hernandez of the homer. “That was a rocket.”
In fact, a sterling play by Endy Chavez saved Hernandez from a second run.
In the sixth inning, Nick Markakis connected on a Hernandez fastball, sending it deep to right field, where a leaping Chavez reached over the wall and deflected the ball down with the edge of his mitt. The ball caromed off the wall, forcing Markakis to settle for a one-out double instead.
Still looking for a run in support of their ace in the fifth inning, the Mariners search turned desperate, with a bad break thrown in for good measure.
Brad Miller worked his second of three walks against the Orioles’ hard-throwing right-hander Kevin Gausman. A second-year pitcher, Gausman (4-3, 3.67 ERA), held the Mariners in check with a power fastball/slider combination. He allowed one run on seven hits and three walks over 6.2 innings.
Chavez hit a two-hop single through the right side that Miller leaped to avoid before advancing. But as Miller coasted into third base, second base umpire Manny Gonzalez called him out, ruling the ball grazed Miller’s foot as the single headed to the outfield.
The play wasn’t reviewed, but Miller didn’t protest.
“He said it hit him,” McClendon said.
Instead of runners on first and third with one out, Seattle was left with Chavez on first with two outs. It proved costly. After Chavez stole second, James Jones delivered a single to shallow left. Third base coach Rich Donnelly let the team’s desperation to break a 15-inning scoreless drought get the best of him. He waved Chavez home, only to see him gunned down by Steve Pearce by nearly 30 feet.
“We hadn’t had a two-out (RBI) in awhile,” McClendon said of the decision to send Chavez in that situation. “It was the right thing to do. The guy made a great throw.”
The next inning, Cano led off with a triple. Morales followed with the sacrifice fly to right for his first Mariners RBI as Cano barely beat a strong throw from Markakis. Thus, the Mariners came away with only one run over the two innings despite four baserunners.
That came back to haunt, as it has done all season, as the Mariners flirt with postseason contention. They threatened in the eighth with runners on first and second and one out, only to see Chavez and Stefen Romero fail to come through. Seattle left eight men on base.
Instead of cruising to a win, Hernandez (11-2, 1.99 ERA) settled for his ninth no-decision after seven innings while dropping his ERA below 2.00. He was pulled after 102 pitches in which he allowed five hits, one run, no walks and struck out 10.
Never one to talk about himself, Hernandez has always let his superior performances do the talking for him. But after tying a major-league record, the questions came. Is this the best zone he’s been in over the course of his long career?
“No idea. You tell me. If you say so, yes,” a humble Hernandez said. “(It) doesn’t matter because we lost. It’s all about the team. It’s all about winning.
“It means a lot for me, but I don’t care about myself. I just care about my team.”
The game was the seventh extra-inning contest for the Mariners. They fell to 3-4 . . . With an 0-for-4 night, OF Dustin Ackley had his seven-game hitting streak snapped . . . Hernandez is 7-1 with a 1.36 ERA and 113 strikeouts over recent 13-start stretch . . . Miller tied a career high with the three walks, also doing it last July versus Cincinnati.