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MLB Team Report - Seattle Mariners - INSIDE PITCH
While the Mariners have all sorts of issues going on right now, the biggest question mark heading out of the weekend is what is ailing Felix Hernandez.
Both Hernandez and manager Eric Wedge contend that it's not the pitcher's back, despite the curious drop in performance since the right-hander was removed from a May 14 game with back tightness.
"I feel fine," Hernandez said after giving up five earned runs for the second consecutive start on Saturday night. "It's not that."
Wedge was also adamant that Hernandez is healthy, saying of Hernandez's back tightness: "He's been on top of that."
And yet since that May 14 win over the Yankees that saw Hernandez come out after six innings of five-hit, one-run ball, the Mariners' ace has started to look just ordinary. He allowed six runs (five earned) at Cleveland, then five runs against Texas, each time exceeding the total of four that he'd allowed in his six previous outings combined. He's allowed 19 hits in 11 2/3 innings over his past two outings as his ERA has soared from 1.53 to 2.51.
"It just can't happen anymore," Hernandez said after giving up 11 hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings of a 5-2 loss to the Rangers on Saturday night. "I have to go out and do something about it."
The question is what more he can possibly do. He may well have been the best pitcher in the AL for a month-long stretch from mid-April to mid-May but now looks hittable, at best. Hernandez said after Saturday's loss that he had his typical stuff but that Texas hitters were just having success making contact and finding holes.
Wedge offered that Hernandez might have been up in the strike zone more than usual, adding: "The last couple of starts, he hasn't been his typical self -- that's for sure."
A byproduct of Hernandez's latest struggles is a Seattle bullpen that continues to be overextended. The Mariners have made 30 pitching changes during the past nine games, using at least four pitchers in all but two of them. In Seattle's 4-3, 13-inning win over the Rangers on Sunday, the Mariners used five pitchers.
Even while three-fifths of the rotation was struggling, the Mariners could always count on their ace to pitch eight innings, save the bullpen and put the team in position to win.
Lately, not even that seems like a good bet.
The Mariners don't need Hernandez to be perfect every night, but they do need him to be something greater than an ordinary starter. And lately, they haven't gotten their money's worth out of their $175 million man.
MLB Team Report - Seattle Mariners - NOTES, QUOTES
STREAK: Won one
PAST 10 GAMES: 2-8
NEXT: Padres (LHP Clayton Richard, 0-4, 8.54) at Mariners (RHP Aaron Harang, 1-5, 8.58)
--1B Justin Smoak sat out Sunday's game after suffering a strained oblique muscle the previous night. Manager Eric Wedge said Sunday morning that Smoak is day-to-day, adding that the injury is not as serious as first thought.
--CF Franklin Gutierrez (torn right hamstring) could be close to coming off the disabled list. Gutierrez is currently doing a rehab stint at Triple-A Tacoma, where he's seeing time in right field. He's hitting .167 with a homer and six RBI through 10 games for Tacoma. Manager Eric Wedge said Gutierrez is feeling better but added that the team is "just trying to give him as much time as possible to keep feeling better."
--SS Brendan Ryan seems to make a significant defensive play on a daily basis. In Sunday's game, he took a throw from CF Michael Saunders behind second base and made a perfect relay to third, easily throwing out the Rangers' Nelson Cruz as he tried to stretch a double into a triple in the fourth inning. Ryan also kept up his hot streak at the plate, going 2-for-5 with a bunt single. Ryan has hit safely in 10 of the past 11 games, during which he's batting .390.
--CF Michael Saunders is really struggling at the plate, as evidenced by his second-inning strikeout Sunday. Saunders chased a low pitch from Texas RHP Nick Tepesch, then threw his bat in frustration. That extended Saunders's hitless streak to 10 at-bats, and he went on to go 0-for-3 for the afternoon. In the past 12 games, Saunders has gone 5-for-46 (.109) over the past 12 games while getting dropped from the leadoff spot to sixth in the Mariners' batting order.
--RHP Hisashi Iwakuma continues to show only one flaw in his game. He gave up a leadoff home run Sunday, the team-high 10th homer he's yielded on the season, but otherwise dominated the Texas hitters. Iwakuma pitched eight innings, allowing just five hits and two runs in a no-decision. It marked the ninth time in 11 starts this season that Iwakuma has allowed two earned runs or fewer.
--C Jesus Sucre, called up from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday, made a veteran-like play on a seventh-inning out Sunday. Sucre blocked a third-strike pitch in the dirt, then came up with the ball and ran toward baserunner Adrian Beltre between second and third base, starting a 2-5-6 putout to end a threat after Beltre had led off the inning with a double.
--RHP Tom Wilhelmsen was called upon in a rare non-save situation Sunday, when he pitched two scoreless innings of relief to match his longest outing of the season. Wilhelmsen needed just six pitches to get through a 1-2-3 ninth inning to keep the score tied 2-2, then was perfect again in the 10th -- on only 11 pitches. He retired right-handed hitters Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz along the way, which made righties 0-for-33 against Wilhelmsen this season.
--RHP Aaron Harang could be one bad outing from losing his job. The 35-year-old starter has gotten rocked in three of his six starts with Seattle this season, the latest being a nine-hit, seven-run performance over 3 2/3 innings of a loss to the Angels. Harang is scheduled to make his seventh start of the season Monday against San Diego, a team from his hometown that he has faced 15 times in his career (5-5, 3.75 ERA).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The veterans really came through for us." -- Manager Eric Wedge said, after Seattle's 4-3, 13-inning win over Texas. 1B Kendrys Morales and LF Raul Ibanez hit game-tying homers, and LF Jason Bay knocked in the winning run with a single.
MLB Team Report - Seattle Mariners - ROSTER REPORT
--1B Justin Smoak (strained oblique) was hurt May 25, and he didn't play May 26. He is day-to-day.
--CF Franklin Gutierrez (torn right hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list April 23. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on May 16. He might be ready to return in late May or early June.
--RHP Josh Kinney (stress reaction in left rib area) was shut down March 10, and he hadn't resumed throwing through late March. He went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on May 17.
--RHP Stephen Pryor (torn right lat muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list April 15, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 17.
RHP Felix Hernandez
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
LHP Joe Saunders
RHP Brandon Maurer
RHP Aaron Harang
RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (closer)
LHP Charlie Furbush
LHP Oliver Perez
RHP Carter Capps
RHP Yoervis Medina
LHP Lucas Luetge
RHP Danny Farquhar
1B Justin Smoak
2B Dustin Ackley
SS Brendan Ryan
3B Kyle Seager
DH Kendrys Morales
INF Carlos Triunfel
LF Michael Morse
CF Michael Saunders
RF Raul Ibanez
OF Jason Bay
OF Endy Chavez