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A night to forget for Felix

By Shannon Drayer

A one-run loss is nothing new for the Mariners. Felix Hernandez giving up a seven-run lead, however, is a stunner.

“I just blew the lead. It’s all my fault. Nobody else, just me,” he said after the Mariners’ 10-9 loss to the Angels Thursday.

Felix gave up seven straight hits for a total of five runs in the fifth inning. He had little explanation and no excuses for what happened. The long layoffs in the dugout while his team was putting up runs for him had nothing to do with it.

A rough outing for Felix Hernandez ended after a fifth-inning meltdown in which he allowed seven straight hits and five runs. “There’s no excuses,” he said. (AP)

He said he didn’t change his approach with the lead, though it appeared that he threw more fastballs than he normally does. The location of the fastballs – mostly two-seamers – was the problem.

He felt his mechanics were a little off but wasn’t concerned about how it happened as much as he was that it did happen.

“I was fine, I was fine,” he answered when asked about having to sit for longer than usual when his team was batting. “No excuse at all. I blew an eight-run lead. It’s all my fault.”

There is no question Felix took this one hard. Both Kendrys Morales and Henry Blanco spent a considerable amount of time talking to him when he came out of the game and in the clubhouse afterward as well. There was considerable dialogue – in Spanish, of course – going on in that corner of the clubhouse. Not anger on either part, but rather intensity with Felix contributing as much as listening. This was without question one of the many times I wished I spoke Spanish.

With all that said, Felix will put this behind him. He is not one to linger on a loss or wallow in a rare failure. And should there be any panic over this performance, put it to rest. Felix is human. This was an unfortunate but human moment in his career and not as rare as you might suspect.

For Felix, the loss to the Angels was dramatic in that five of the six earned runs he allowed came in one inning as did seven of the 12 hits. That is odd. But giving up six earned runs was not. Over his career he has had 22 games in which he has given up six earned runs or more. He does have the occasional clunker. He had four last year and two in 2010, when he won the Cy Young Award.

He will bounce back.

“Not think about it, just go out there next time and do what I know I can do,” he answered when I asked how he would deal with this.

While he may not think about it I would expect an even more focused Felix over the next five days. This clearly disturbed him.

While Felix took the blame for this game the bullpen should take a bit, too, as it gave up three runs. Carter Capps has struggled for the better part of a month. Yoervis Medina walked in the winning run on four pitches.

None of this is good, obviously, and I think Brendan Ryan spelled it out beautifully after the game. When it was pointed out to him that giving up leads was fairly rare for the Mariners, he described what this team should be to a T.

“We’re not built to put up 15 (runs) per game, obviously,” he said, “but we are built to hold on to the tight leads and win games when we’re ahead. We’re not built to come back from nine-run deficits and stuff like that.”

In other words, their strength should have been pitching and defense. No news flash there, but this bullpen is not the bullpen of Mariners teams past. No, this bullpen has the fourth-worst ERA in baseball right now and this is not all on Tom Wilhelmsen. With every lead precious on this offensively-challenged team, they simply can’t have the pen giving up the number of runs it has been giving up.

Right now they don’t have a closer. They don’t really have a bona fide setup man, either. Oliver Perez is the only reliever that I feel Eric Wedge truly has confidence in to get both left- and right-handers out with regularity.

While the composition of the bullpen has been suspect all season in that too many members were too left- or right-handed-specific, there is a lot of talent out there. We have seen this group do good things for a significant amount of time. While help in the form of an addition (we could see Josh Kinney soon and Stephen Pryor perhaps shortly after the All-Star break) would be welcome, I think this group has the potential to figure it out and do it on its own.

It’s just a shame they couldn’t do it Thursday and help bail out their ace, who needed a rare assist.

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