09/09/09 2:51 AM ET
Mariners fall despite Sweeney's heroics
Homer in ninth bails out Hernandez in loss to Angels
By Jim Street / MLB.com
This time, Mariners Cy Young Award candidate Felix Hernandez departed after seven innings on the short end of a one-run game in a stellar rematch against Angels left-hander Scott Kazmir.
Both pitched well enough to win, but each had to settle for no-decisions in a game the Angels won, 3-2, in the 10th inning before 37,725 at Angel Stadium.
Right-hander Miguel Batista, the third Mariners pitcher used in the game, surrendered a two-out single into center field to Erick Aybar, scoring Bobby Abreu, who reached on a leadoff single.
While the Angels moved another step closer to clinching a playoff spot, Ichiro was unable to close in on a Major League record that is sure to be his in the near future. The nine-time All-Star is on the verge of becoming the first player in MLB history to have nine consecutive 200-hit seasons.
But his second 0-for-5 of the season kept him stuck on 195 hits.
"That shows you what kind of pitcher Kazmir is," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Ichiro usually handles lefties pretty well, but it looked like [Kazmir] made him uncomfortable."
Ichiro struck out, grounded out three times, and reached on an error.
Even so, the Mariners were positioned to pull out a win in the ninth inning.
Designated hitter Mike Sweeney tied the game with a leadoff home run off Angels closer Brian Fuentes. Two walks and a wild pitch later, the Mariners had a chance to take the lead, but pinch-hitters Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Carp were retired on a strikeout and comebacker.
It became a bittersweet moment for Sweeney.
"I have never actually tried to hit a home run and actually done it," the veteran said. "At the time, it gave us a chance to play more baseball, but here we are at 10:30 [p.m. PT] and it doesn't mean squat. We're down to the point of the season where we pretty much have to win every game."
"We felt good with the way we got there," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "with the way Kazmir threw the ball, the way Kevin [Jepsen] threw the ball.
"Brian's been doing a job for us. Unfortunately, he didn't get a fastball where he wanted to Mike Sweeney, and we were in a tie ballgame."
But not for long as Batista's record fell to 6-4.
The Mariners (72-67) have lost three straight after getting to a season-high eight games over .500 and now trail the Angels by 11 games and the Wild Card-leading Red Sox by 8 1/2 games.
Hernandez, who blanked the Angels over eight innings the last time and won his 14th game of the season, yielded just three hits in Tuesday night's game, but didn't have the same crispness that he had at Safeco Field.
"It was another good game between Kazmir and me," Hernandez said, "but I didn't have my best stuff or command tonight. For whatever reason, whenever I had a day off before I pitch, this happens. I don't have the same command."
Hernandez, who walked three batters in the third inning, said he would try to throw the ball over the middle of the plate, but his pitches were moving so much that they would be out of strike zone before reaching catcher Rob Johnson.
Hernandez was fortunate to escape the third inning with only one run being scored after loading the bases with one out.
He wasn't so fortunate in the fifth inning, but it wasn't entirely his fault.
Mariners shortstop Jack Wilson mishandled a potential inning-ending double play, handing the Angels a gift run and their one-run lead over the Seattle ace.
"The ball hit the grass and skipped on me more than I expected and it hit me above my thumb," Wilson said. "I thought I had a good shot at it. It was hit hard, but I still should have made the play."
The Mariners led once -- on a one-out home run by Franklin Gutierrez in the first inning, his career-best 16th home run of the season.
A pitch that did Johnson a lot more harm than Hernandez seemed to affect the pitcher more than the receiver in the third inning. Johnson absorbed the brunt of a foul tip off the bat of Mike Napoli, needing several minutes to catch his breath from the low blow.
"That is a tough position to play," Hernandez said, "but he's a tough guy."
When play resumed, three straight balls gave Napoli a free pass to first, Gary Matthews walked on four pitches and after both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt, Felix walked Maicer Izturis on five pitches to load the bases.
A big gulp could almost be heard from the visiting dugout when Hernandez fell behind in the count 3-and-1 to Abreu. But two pitches later, Abreu flied out to left field, scoring the tying run, and Vladimir Guerrero grounded out to third.
"It was a heckuva ballgame and I'm proud of these guys to battle a club like that into extra innings," Wakamatsu said. "You knew it would be a pitching duel, just the way it was in Seattle between Kazmir and Felix, and I don't think we disappointed the fans at all."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.