Mariners 11, Angels 3
SEATTLE (AP)—Felix Hernandez is back. His command is not.
The 21-year-old Hernandez, who was dominant before straining his forearm April 18, was healthy but rusty in allowing three runs and walking three. He struggled with any pitch except his straight fastball. He threw 52 of those in his 78 pitches, two below the maximum set by manager Mike Hargrove.
“It was probably better than I anticipated,” Hargrove said. “I wasn’t obviously 100 percent sure that he come through it healthy. I’m happy. ‘Relieved’ is not the correct word.”
Hernandez’s curveball often stayed flat and high. His two-seam fastball was often too low and wide. He said he threw only three or four sliders, the pitch that bothered him most just before the arm pain.
“I feel like I’ve been out a year,” Hernandez said, smiling and relieved that his twice-delayed return had finally happened. “I felt lost. I was not throwing strikes like I was used to.
“But I feel good. No problems. I’m glad to be back. … My first inning, I was worried. Then I just didn’t try to think about that (injury).”
The Angels’ idea of running up Hernandez’s pitch count early worked. They took 15 of the first 19 pitches he threw. Leadoff man Reggie Willits swung at just two of the 15 pitches he saw from Hernandez. Problem was, the Angels were down 9-3 before their plan had the desired effect of removing Hernandez from the game in favor of rookie Sean White (1-0), who got his first major league win by retiring all 13 batters he faced.
Kelvim Escobar’s 2.21 ERA was fourth-best in the AL entering the game. But he allowed eight runs—six earned—in 2 1-3 innings, his shortest start since July 13, 2003, when Escobar was with Toronto.
“It seemed like everything I threw, they hit,” Escobar said. “I don’t think there was much I could do.”
Escobar (4-2) was coming off a seven-hit shutout of Cleveland and had allowed just one run over his previous two starts. Seattle tripled that total in the first inning, aided by three Angels mistakes.
First baseman Casey Kotchman made a great, diving stop of Suzuki’s hard grounder leading off. But Kotchman decided to race the speedy Suzuki to first instead of tossing the ball to a waiting Escobar. Suzuki won. After Jose Guillen singled home Suzuki, third baseman Chone Figgins threw high off Kotchman’s glove for an error that allowed Jose Vidro to score. Escobar followed that with a wild pitch that scored Guillen. Those were the first three runs Escobar had allowed in the first inning all season.
“This game wasn’t all on Kelvim,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “There were some things that happened defensively that opened up some opportunities for them. We just didn’t play a good ball game. We are still trying to find that defensive chemistry.”
The Angels scored on a walk and three infield singles off a frustrated Hernandez in the third. But Seattle’s lead became 9-1 in the bottom of the inning. Doubles by Raul Ibanez and Guillen, a single by Adrian Beltre and a sacrifice fly by Kenji Johjima made it 7-1. Escobar left after Yuniesky Betancourt’s RBI single. Then Jose Lopez hit Hector Carrasco’s first pitch into the Angels’ bullpen beyond left field.
Hernandez loaded the bases in the fourth on a single, a double and a walk. After Hernandez struck out Figgins on a 96 mph fastball for the second out and his fifth strikeout, Hargrove turned his shoulders to walk out of the dugout and remove him. But pitching coach Rafael Chaves appeared to persuade the manager to leave Hernandez in. Orlando Cabrera then singled home two runs with his third hit.
Hargrove then walked to the mound. As the home crowd stood and cheered, the manager chatted with his ace for almost a minute before he tapped Hernandez’s right cheek for encouragement. Hernandez shook his head in disappointment and walked off.
“I was telling (Chaves) ‘Come on. Come on. Let me throw five,”’ innings to qualify for the win, Hernandez said. “That’s OK. Maybe next time.”
Hargrove said that next time will likely include a pitch limit of 85 or 95.
Johjima hit another, long homer off Carrasco in the fourth to make it 10-3. … Seattle won for just the third time in 14 games against the Angels. … All-Star slugger Vladimir Guerrero was out of the Angels’ lineup for what he and Scioscia said was rest. Scioscia said Guerrero will play Wednesday. … Seattle optioned RHP Sean Green and LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith to Triple-A Tacoma. It activated Hernandez from the 15-day DL and RHP Jason Davis, who was acquired from Cleveland for a player to be named on Sunday. He pitched the ninth inning.