Felix unable to reverse trend against Angels

Felix unable to reverse trend against Angels

Felix unable to reverse trend against Angels
SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez isn't always perfect. Matter of fact, the Mariners ace has been very human against the Angels, the one team in baseball that has seemingly had his number over the years.

And that trend continued Saturday as the Angels scored four times in the eighth to pull out their fifth straight victory, a 5-2 comeback that snapped Hernandez's personal nine-win streak.

"They've got a good lineup," Hernandez said. "They've got me pretty good the last three starts. But that doesn't matter. You've just got to go out there and make good pitches."

Hernandez did that well enough to take a 2-1 lead into the eighth at Safeco Field, but three singles and an error by third baseman Kyle Seager allowed the Halos to take the lead and put a wrinkle in Hernandez's incredible midseason run.

The 2010 AL Cy Young winner gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits -- and had two walks and two wild pitches -- over 7 1/3 innings as his record fell to 13-6 with a Major League-best 2.51 ERA.

Over his past 15 starts, Hernandez is now 9-1 with a 1.62 ERA since June 17.

Beating the Angels has never been easy for the 26-year-old. He's now 0-2 with a 5.75 ERA in three meetings this season and 6-11 with a 3.89 ERA in 28 career starts against the AL West rivals.

"Felix is one of the best pitchers, if not the best pitcher in the game," Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said after his 3-for-4 day. "If the Mariners get ahead while he's on the mound, it's going to be a battle, and we knew we had an uphill battle. We kind of shortened our swings and tried to really battle at the plate and we were able to come through with some big hits."

The Angels didn't waste any time before getting on the board Saturday against Hernandez, who had three shutouts in August and leads the Majors with five this season. Hunter doubled with one out in the first and scored on Albert Pujols' double off the fence in right-center field.

That was just the second run Hernandez had allowed over his past 26 innings, since his last start against the Angels when he gave up four earned runs in a no-decision in Anaheim.

He allowed baserunners in six of the next seven innings as well, but kept the Angels off the board with some fancy pitching and timely defense until the eighth, when singles by Mike Trout and Hunter were followed by Seager's error on a hard-hit ball by Pujols as Trout was breaking for home.

"I saw him going. It's a contact play," Seager said. "Trout runs well. But if I catch that ball and make a good throw, he'd have been out pretty easily. It's just a play where I got caught between hops and wasn't able to make the play. I should have definitely made it though."

That allowed one run to score and Mark Trumbo followed with a two-run single to end Hernandez's day at 119 pitches. Reliever Stephen Pryor then allowed Hernandez's last run to score on a double by Howard Kendrick.

"I felt good. I felt the same," Hernandez said. "I was throwing the ball pretty good until the eighth. I still felt strong. They got me in the eighth on a couple mistakes. They weren't even mistakes, they were good pitches. But it happens."

Manager Eric Wedge said there was no thought of taking Hernandez out prior to the eighth when he was at 103 pitches with the 2-1 lead.

"You got Felix Hernandez, he's in control of the ballgame, he's in a reasonable pitch count, he's been there before and handled it very well," Wedge said. "He was still strong. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. There's not a better option for us than Felix, as long as he's in a good spot, and he was."

The Mariners ace had struggled in the fourth inning with two walks and two wild pitches, but stranded runners at second and third after striking out Erick Aybar with a nasty changeup and then freezing Alberto Callaspo with a fastball on the inside corner.

Hernandez got help from shortstop Brendan Ryan with a tremendous play in the seventh, with Ryan fielding a grounder up the middle, tagging Aybar sliding into second base in a collision, and then somehow still getting a throw to first to double up Callaspo.

But Seattle managed only two runs in seven innings against Angels starter Ervin Santana. Left fielder Trayvon Robinson celebrated his 25th birthday by getting the Mariners on the board with the first Safeco Field home run of his career, a blast to center in the third.

"That's probably one of the biggest birthday presents I've had," Robinson said. "I was just out there trying to help the team win. But I told myself, it was like any other day, I'm just getting a little older."

Seattle then took a 2-1 lead in the third as Franklin Gutierrez doubled down the left-field line, scoring Dustin Ackley from first base. Gutierrez went 1-for-4 on the day and is 6-for-18 (.333) in five games since returning from a two-month stint on the disabled list following a concussion.

But the Mariners couldn't take advantage of a leadoff double by Justin Smoak in the fifth or a leadoff single by Jesus Montero and sacrifice in the seventh on a day they were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

That, in Wedge's mind, was more the story than any difficulties for Hernandez against the Angels.

"You know he's going to go out there and compete," Wedge said. "With his talent, ability and mindset, you always feel good about it. We had multiple opportunities to add on. If we make it 3-1 or 4-1, it's a different ballgame. That's really where we needed to do a better job today."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.