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09/25/08 2:50 AM ET
Hernandez lets victory get away
Right-hander can't hold lead as Mariners drop 100th game
By Jim Street / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- A number that seemed unfathomable when the regular season started became a reality on Wednesday night when the Mariners reached the 100-loss mark for just the fourth time in franchise history. None of the other three occasions were nearly as surprising as this one. A popular choice to not only contend for the American League West championship this season, but replace the Angels at the top of the division standings, the Mariners never found smooth sailing and methodically slid into the division basement for a prolonged stay. The Mariners avoided the 100-loss mark with a victory on Tuesday night, and looked to be positioned for a second straight victory on Wednesday night when they gave ace right-hander Felix Hernandez a three-run lead after five innings. But the Angels struck quickly in the sixth. The first four batters reached base, three of them scored, and although Felix made it through the inning without allowing another run, he never came back out to pitch the seventh inning and therefore settled for his 11th no-decision of the season in a game the Mariners eventually lost 6-5 in front of 19,015 at Safeco Field. The Mariners (58-100) join hands with the 1983 (60-102), 1980 (59-103) and 1978 (56-104) teams that reached triple-digits in losses. The record-setting 2001 team is the only one that reached the 100-win level, going 116-46. "It wasn't something I was thinking about during the day or the game," manager Jim Riggleman said. "This [loss] felt about the same as other losses -- agonizing. We have lost games so many times when we should have busted the game open, but didn't, and then given up leads late in the game." That wasn't the path to defeat on this night, however. Hernandez, making his fifth attempt at his 10th victory, never had an easy inning, surrendering a career-high 13 hits to the Angels, who are trying to hold off the Rays for home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Felix had surrendered nine hits -- but only two runs -- through five innings. But things looked promising for the Mariners when shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt triggered a three-run rally with a leadoff double. A walk, run-producing double by Jeremy Reed and Bryan LaHair's run-scoring single put Seattle in front, 5-2. "After he finished the fifth, I had every intention of him finishing the seventh," Riggleman said, "even if it meant getting into the 120-pitch range. His arm felt good and his leg was holding up. We wanted to win the game, and he would have a lot of rest coming up. But it wasn't to be." One of the goals going into the game was for Hernandez to pitch 5 1/3 innings, which he needed to reach the 200-inning mark for the first time in his career. "We did that and I was happy for Felix" Riggleman said. "Round numbers like that mean a lot to the players. In Felix's case, it stands for a great effort in a tough situation all year for the ballclub. We wanted him to get to 200 innings. "It was his last time out this season and we stretch him out a little, probably left him out there longer than we should have." Hernandez becomes the 11th pitcher in the American League this season to log at least 200 innings. No one else on the Mariners staff will come close. Nor will anyone on the staff reach double-figures in victories. Felix ends the season with a staff-high nine wins, which is only the third time in franchise history the team has not had at least one 10-game winner. Left-handed starter Floyd Bannister led the Mariners with nine wins in 1981 and lefty Ron Villone, used mostly in relief, had a staff-high eight wins in 2004. The Mariners had a chance to at least tie the game in the eighth inning off Angels reliever Scot Shields. They loaded the bases with one out when LaHair walked, Kenji Johima was hit by a pitch and Miguel Cairo walked. But as the case has been far too often this season, the threat fizzled and went out before any runs scored. Ichiro Suzuki struck out, completing a 0-for-5 game that ended his 15-game hitting streak, and Betancourt grounded out. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez retired the Mariners in order in the ninth for his 62nd save.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.