BY Art Thiel 11:21PM 06/01/2015

Thiel: Felix, Mariners go slip-sliding away in loss

Troubled by a mound muddied by a dubious decision on the retractable Safeco roof, Felix Hernandez put up two terrible innings after three brilliant ones. Yankees, 7-2.

Felix Hernandez leaves the muddy mound after his worst game of the season Monday night. / Alan Chitlik, SportspressNorthwest

Rain, mud and a slope. Never a good combo in a Seattle winter.

But this was June 1, fercripesakes. No winter rules were in place Monday night when Mariners star Felix Hernandez began slip-sliding away, thanks to an open Safeco Field roof and a sneaky shower.

Dominant for three innings and disastrous for two, Hernandez fell apart far faster than the roof could close, leading to one of the most preposterous reversals in club annals, a 7-2 defeat by the New York Yankees (box score) foiled by elements despite a $50 million roof.

But afterward, neither Hernandez nor manager Lloyd McClendon would own up to the obvious: The unstable mound conditions distracted Hernandez into a loss of focus.

“A little bit, but that’s not an excuse,” Hernandez said. “I don’t know what happened. I lost my command. A lot of walks killed me. I made a lot of mistakes.”

Hernandez has had his share of bad games; all great ones do. But rarely has he gone from perfect to perfectly horrible in moments. After nine Yankees in a row were retired on 21 pitches, Hernandez started the fourth by giving up two singles to start, then two walks.

He was clearly flustered by the muddiness of the mound, which seemed to bother his landing. The first run scored on a wild pitch that went all the way to the stands. The second was on a double play grounder for a 2-0 lead.

The roof, closed during most of the pre-game, opened for the start despite showers in the forecast. When the precip began, the slow-moving roof took more than an inning to close.

Before the fifth, the grounds crew came out to apply Diamond Dry absorbent material. But it did no good. Hernandez walked the first batter, and five batters later, longtime nemesis Mark Teixeira laid on the ultimate indignity — a grand slam.

“(The mound) was fine — he just didn’t have his stuff tonight,” said manager Lloyd McClendon, sticking with the no-excuses party line. “He’s human, I guess. He lost it.

“(The Yankees) didn’t have any problems with it. I’m not gonna sit here and make excuses that it was the mound.”

Whatever it was — there is no baseball accounting for “E-roof” — the defeat made a couple of bad circumstances worse.

Yankees starter Michael Pineda, the rookie All-Star that general manager Jack Zduriencik traded to the Yankees for the ill-fated Jesus Montero after 2011, had no problems with the mound or the Mariners, at least until the seventh when he left after giving up two runs. But he showed the form that has made him the staff ace, while Montero continues his extreme makeover in AAA Tacoma.

The other circumstance was the need for a bounce-back from Sunday’s 12-inning debacle against Cleveland, a 6-3 defeat that burned up the bullpen and the fan base because the Mariners managed only five hits. What better fix than the ace, Hernandez, and a robust crowd of Yankees-haters?

But only 26,082 showed for a Yankees team in transition — except for the trusty DH Alex Rodriguez, the precocious Mariners rookie of 20 years ago who generates contempt in Seattle like no other athlete.

Then Hernandez lasted only 4.2 innings, in which he gave up seven runs, six hits and five walks, all season worsts and his most disastrous outing since Sept. 23 game in Toronto, in which he probably lost the 2014 Cy Young Award and cost the Mariners momentum they needed to make the playoffs.

Asked directly he became distracted after the third inning, he was firm.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I just made a lot of mistakes. The first inning I was calm, and then I got going a little bit fast.”

Baseball longtimers say that a trip to the ballpark often brings something you’ve never seen. Mariners fans never want to see Monday again — especially after Sunday.


Rookie reliever Mayckol Guiape, called up after nine seasons in the minors, had a stellar debut, relieving Hernandez and retiring all seven batters, two with strikeouts. “Outstanding,” said McClendon . . . The revised top of the order, led by Logan Morrison did OK, going 4-16. “I liked what I saw,” McClendon said.


  • Effzee

    There was greater than a 3% chance of rain and the M’s left the roof open? Its like the inmates are running the asylum! Chuck Armstrong must be rolling over in his grave.

    • Trygvesture

      Jack’s trades are the of the very same stuff that kept the cool guys with the Duke Snider/Mickey Mantle/Brooks Robinson/et al best Topps cards and the others with the bike-spoke and clothespins material. We get exited for second because he Lincoln-logged the signing of a couple of guys, but, sadly, he simply can’t build a Team. A Team– built with baeball savvy foresight and balance, as much as it’s possible in the black arts of baseball personnel. But, some can do it. Jack just can’t get the teeter totter balanced. There are always too many lightweights on one end.

    • Southsound Seahawk

      I think Chuck Armstrong is still alive genius….’rolling over in his grave’, why are people so stupid

  • RadioGuy

    Happens. It’s the Mariners, after all. I remember all the unrealistic expectations in 2010, too. Next revenue-stream opportunity up.

  • coug73

    We now know Felix isn’t a muddier. Save your money next time.

  • Sam Base

    Last night was like watching the winner of the “Safe Driver of the Year” award crash into a wall at 120mph. All you could do was marvel at the wreckage and hope nobody died. Well, nobody did die. It was just one game, freakish at it was. Hopefully a few important lessons were learned. Oh, and let’s get some offense.

  • jafabian

    I understand the sudden squall happened quickly but I still think Safeco Field building maintenance waited too long to close the roof. And Felix should have said the mound wasn’t right after his wild pitch. Not sure how MLB rules mandate that.

    Boy, sure would love to have Pineda and Doug Fister on the club right now. At least we got Jesus Montero and Casper Wells for them.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Pineda, Fister and Young. And Randy Johnson.

  • Larry Gahlhoff

    This is a sobering development. Currently the M’s pitching staff is putting up a collective 3.8 ERA which is ok if the offense has a ‘realistic possibility’ of scoring 6-7+ runs on a regular basis. Right now the M’s are floating a few spots above the bottom of every significant offensive category in all of MLB. Last night Mclendon had LoMo leading off could be interpreted as an act of desperation, if so this is not a good sign as it shows that there are few options available to tread water until players with a history of hitting well are able to hit themselves out of a slump.
    If there is no help to be had from Tacoma one could question the quality of available talent in the minor league system

    • Kevin Lynch

      “Players with a history of hitting well”. If you mean hitting well over a six month season that would give us Seager, Cruz and Cano (?) and…..that’s about it.

  • woofer

    Truth is that M’s pennant hopes depended on a good run of luck — no major injuries, marginal relievers continuing to exceed reasonable expectations, a few young bats finally coming around. So far the main plusses have been Felix, Happ, Cruz and Miller. Everyone else is struggling or inconsistent. Cano is not leading. Ackley is a head case. Pitching needed to be outstanding across the board, and it hasn’t been.

  • Bayview Herb

    Maybe next time, the Mariner brain trust will close the roof on forecast Instead of letting 12 minutes of downpour drench the field. Anyone who watched that game with mud caked on Felix’s cleats, and saw his plant foot slide 4 inches, know the cause of his sudden blow-up.