Mariners' bats offer shaky Felix no help
Offense contained by Mussina; Hernandez surrenders 12 hits
NEW YORK -- After watching his team score one run, commit two more errors and lose its fourth straight game on Sunday afternoon, manager John McLaren finally reached the boiling point.He sent a loud message to his players during a postgame verbal barrage that could be heard at least 30 feet away from the closed visitors' clubhouse door, signaling the end of his patience. The Mariners (13-18) dropped a season-high five games under .500 with a 6-1 loss to the Yankees in front of 52,810 at Yankee Stadium. Seattle's eight singles produced one run, and right-hander Felix Hernandez had his worst outing of the season, surrendering 12 hits and six runs in 5 2/3 innings. "We're better than this," McLaren told the media afterward. "The things [McLaren] said hit the nail on the head," veteran outfielder Raul Ibanez said, refusing to go into specifics. "You have to work through it. You win as a team, you lose as a team. We're obviously much better than this." Ibanez said "every team goes through this during the season," but the Mariners' troubles are magnified because it is early in the season and expectations were so high coming out of Spring Training. "Now is the time for us to start playing the way we're capable of playing," Ibanez said. The Mariners are nowhere close to the team that was expected to challenge the Angels for the American League West title. They haven't been able to bunch together hits, score runs and put pressure on their opponents. "There are some little things that come back and haunt us," McLaren said. "One is our fielding. Another is not making a good pitch when we have a pitcher's count on the hitter. We give them a pitch to hit, and I can think of three or four of them in the last couple of games. "It's not winning baseball." Scoring one or two runs per game, something that is happening all too often, also makes it difficult to win games. "We can't hit for them," McLaren said. "It's up to them. We put their name in the lineup, and if they don't hit, we look for other options. They do cage work for two hours in the afternoon and then have nothing to show for it in the game." The Mariners' run-starved offense "featured" another good game from center fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who went 2-for-4, stole a base and drove in a run with a third-inning single that briefly tied the game. Ichiro is now 7-for-13 in the past three games. Catcher Kenji Johjima, back in the lineup after missing two starts, singled twice for his first multihit game since April 16. The Mariners were stymied once again by veteran right-hander Mike Mussina, who improved his career record against Seattle to 18-7. Hernandez, meanwhile, absorbed his second loss of the season and saw his ERA climb from 2.22 to 3.04. "Felix didn't throw that good today," McLaren said. "He just didn't look right today. That wasn't Felix." Hernandez departed with two outs in the sixth inning after surrendering his 12th hit -- one shy of his single-game career high. Johnny Damon led the barrage with two doubles and a home run, and the top third of New York's offense hammered King Felix. The first three Yankees hitters -- Damon, Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu -- were a combined 8-for-12, scored four runs and drove in four runs against the Seattle starter. Hernandez called it "one of those days" when he really had nothing working for him except an occasional changeup. He called the pitch that Damon sent into the upper deck for a two-run home run in the sixth inning "a two-seamer right in the middle [of the plate], and he hit it a long way." It didn't help, though, that the Mariners committed two more errors and now have 26 this season. Neither of the errors figured in the scoring, but they epitomized the trials and tribulations the Mariners are experiencing. Back-to-back doubles by Damon and Jeter with one out in the third inning gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, and they made it 3-1 one out later, when Hideki Matsui hit a grounder over the third-base bag. The ball caromed off the padded wall down the left-field line, and Ibanez hustled over to pick the ball up and throw it to second, keeping Matsui at first. But Matsui pulled up after rounding first base, and Ibanez tried to stop the throw he was going to make. The ball came out of his hand and rolled toward right-center field, allowing Matsui to take second. Ibanez received his second error of the season. "When things are going well, the ball sticks in the ground and you pick it up," Ibanez said. "When things are not going well, it rolls away and the runner advances another base. "I saw him stop, and I tried to hold up. I should have just thrown the ball." Hernandez then walked Jason Giambi and surrendered a single to center that drove in Matsui. Ichiro mishandled the ball, allowing the hitter, Melky Cabrera, to reach second. It was Ichiro's first error since last Sept. 12 against the Athletics. The three-run Yankees lead was never threatened, leaving McLaren to pace the Mariners' dugout trying to figure out a way to get his struggling team on track. He settled on a tongue-lashing. "He didn't throw any chairs," Johjima said in English.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.