King Felix Struggles In Final Start, M’s Lose 8-4
SEATTLE (AP) — Nobody was better than Felix Hernandez in August.
“It was the best month that I’ve ever seen in my life,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
Then the calendar turned, and so did Hernandez.
The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner finished his season Monday night with an ineffective outing in Seattle’s 8-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. He allowed a season-high 12 hits and seven runs over 5 1-3 innings, falling to 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA after Aug. 27.
“I just tried to have a good game tonight and I didn’t. It happens. I’m not frustrated, just try to get better for next year,” said Hernandez, who was 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA in five August starts — including his perfect game on Aug. 15.
The right-hander struck out seven and walked three. He was trying for his third career sub-3.00 ERA season, but the Angels scored three times in the sixth, enough to push the number to 3.03.
“They laid off some tough pitches and hit a couple good pitches and they hit a couple mistakes,” Wedge said. “They did a nice job against him tonight.
“It shouldn’t take anything away from his season,” the manager added. “It was another fantastic year by Felix. As we continue to improve, particularly on the offensive side, a Felix or a Jason Vargas will really benefit from that.”
Hernandez finished with 223 strikeouts, currently third-highest in the AL and second-most in his career. It is his fourth straight season with 200-plus strikeouts.
Mike Trout had four hits and drove in three runs for the Angels, but it wasn’t enough to keep them in the playoff chase. Los Angeles, with a high payroll and high expectations when the season started, was eliminated from the wild-card race when Oakland beat Texas 4-3.
The Angels just couldn’t dig themselves out of an early season hole.
“Our expectations are higher than even the fans, media, anyone,” said manager Mike Scioscia, who talked to his team for 20 minutes after the game. “We’re disappointed.”
The Angels, carrying the fourth-highest payroll in the majors, signed first baseman Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million deal during the offseason and then added left-hander C.J. Wilson for another $77.5 million. Those aggressive free-agent moves could earn the Angels (89-71) 90 victories but no postseason, even with one additional wild-card spot.
Pujols didn’t have a home run in April as the Angels went 8-15 and were nine games out by May.
“We set ourselves back early in the year and never quite got back to the position we wanted to be. We paid a price for it,” Scioscia said. “You can’t cut out parts of the season and say we did this or we did that. The test of the season is 162 games. For 120 games-plus, we played great baseball.”
The Angels put on a final rush by going 27-11 since Aug. 21, the best record in baseball. But they had too many games and teams to overcome.
“That’s why you play 162 games,” Pujols said. “We played pretty well in the second half. Other teams played a little better than us. They deserve to make it, too.”
Pujols has 50 doubles and 30 home runs for the third straight season, the first big leaguer to do that.
Wilson (13-10) went 6 1-3 innings for the victory. He allowed six hits and two runs, striking out seven and walking five.
“You look at so many wins (89), then say it’s a failed situation,” said Wilson, who said he pitched through painful bone spurs for the past two months. “Obviously, we have to put blame on ourselves. When you’re counting on other teams down the stretch, it’s not a good position to be in.”
Pujols added that even with all the money spent on talent “that doesn’t win championships. You still have to go out there and perform.”
The Angels jumped on Hernandez for three runs in the first inning. Trout, a home run shy of the cycle, doubled into the right-center gap. With one out, Pujols doubled high off the wall in center to drive in Trout.
With two outs, Alberto Callaspo walked. Mark Trumbo’s single scored Pujols. Howie Kendrick, who also had four hits, singled to score Callaspo.
Casper Wells got one back in the bottom of the inning with his ninth home run on a 1-0 pitch from Wilson.
Trout’s RBI single in the fourth scored Maicer Izturis from second. Trout drove in two more runs in the sixth with a triple and came home on Torii Hunter’s single to left.
Trout is the first rookie to have five four-hit games since Troy Tulowitzki in 2007. Trout scored his 129th run, third-most by a rookie behind Joe DiMaggio (132) and Ted Williams (131).
“He’s one of the best young hitters I’ve ever seen, arguably one of the best young players of all-time,” Wedge said. “He is short to the ball with a lot of power and strength, the quickness he has out of the box and basepaths, the way he is able to track the ball down along with a pretty good arm and very athletic. He is an unbelievable young baseball player right now.”
Justin Smoak, hitting .404 since Sept. 13, doubled home Wells in the Mariners’ three-run seventh. Trayvon Robinson had an RBI single and another run scored on Kendrick’s error at second base.
NOTES: Mariners CF Franklin Gutierrez is finishing the season the way he began: injured. Gutierrez, limited to 92 games last year because of stomach and oblique issues, has played in just 40 games this season because of a concussion, stomach and now groin issues. “If he has a chance to play another game, then we’ll get him in there,” Wedge said. “If it doesn’t make any sense, then we won’t.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.