SEATTLE -- The team that has put more "L's" behind Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez's name in a box score than any other was at it again on Monday night. Not even another comeback rally could change Hernandez's luck against the Rangers. The Mariners overcame a four-run deficit, but were unable to pull it out in the end, leaving two runners on base in the ninth inning to absorb a 6-5 loss before 16,421 at Safeco Field.
The Mariners' lead in the American League West dwindled to 1 1/2 games over the Rangers. But it wasn't over until it was over, as Seattle (15-11) tried to pull another rabbit out of its rally hat against Rangers closer Frank Francisco. With one out and nobody on, the resilient Mariners threatened one last time when Franklin Gutierrez singled and Yuniesky Betancourt walked for the first time this season. But the game ended when Ichiro Suzuki flied out routinely to center field. It might have ended differently if catcher Kenji Johjima had been called safe at first base with one out in the inning. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus made a great backhanded stab to snag a ball headed into left field and, throwing from his knees, delivered a one-hop throw to first. In a photo finish, the first-base umpire called the runner out and Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu had his most heated discussion of the season with an umpire. "I thought he was safe," Wakamatsu said. "That was the bottom line. It was a close call in the ninth inning and emotions are going. I went out and told him I thought he was safe." First-base coach Lee Tinsley saw it -- and heard it -- the same way. "I heard [Johjima's] foot hit the base before the ball hit the glove," Tinsley said. The call stood, as did the one-run Texas lead, and Hernandez lost for the first time this season after starting out with four straight wins. He struck out nine and walked none, but surrendered a season-high 10 hits. "Hernandez had great stuff, off-the-chart stuff," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said. "It's a huge challenge, you have to crank up your focus level, but fortunately, we were able to get some timely hits off Felix. He's tough." The Rangers continue to have his number, which is now nine. Hernandez is 4-9 in his career against the Rangers, and no other team has beaten him more than four times. "They have a very good lineup," he explained. "Every time I pitch against them, it's hard." Hernandez entered the two-game series opener working on a consecutive scoreless innings streak of 19. It reached 22 innings before the first four batters he faced in the fourth inning drilled base hits, producing two runs. A two-run home run by Young in the fifth inning built the Rangers' lead to four runs. But as they have demonstrated several times this season, deficits are not that big of a deal for this team. The Mariners went into the fifth inning with no runs, no hits and no baserunners against Rangers right-hander Kevin Millwood. No problem. Eight batters later, the Mariners had five hits and four runs. Another deficit-erasing rally started with a leadoff homer by Russell Branyan, his seventh of the season. Jose Lopez singled. Johjima doubled. And Gutierrez hammered Millwood's first pitch into the visiting bullpen to tie the game. But the Rangers retaliated in the top of the sixth, taking back the lead on Chris Davis' two-run home run into the right-field seats, his sixth of the season. Although he might have been weakened by a flu bug that had him somewhat under the weather most of the day, Hernandez would not use that as an excuse. He blamed the location of a couple of his pitches that were hit into the seats. What really irked him was the way he let the momentum of the four-run rally slip away. "They gave me four runs to tie the game and I go out and give up two more," he said. "That's the most frustrating thing about it. "I am kind of tired because of the flu, but it's not an excuse. I have pitched a couple of times like this. Sometimes I do well. Sometimes I don't do well." He blamed the loss on two particular pitches -- one to Young in the fifth and one to Davis in the sixth. "I left some pitches up and they made me pay," he said. Wakamatsu gave his team a high-five for coming back from an early four-run deficit against a pitcher that seemed to have no-hit stuff on this night. "Millwood was as good as anybody I have seen this year," he said. "He clearly was unhittable, topped out at 93 [mph] and kept our hitters off-balance. It shows the character of our club to come back against someone with that kind of stuff." Branyan, moved into the cleanup spot in the lineup for the first time this season, ended a streak of 12 consecutive Mariners retired with his long home run to right field. That lit a fuse that would last until Endy Chavez grounded out to end the inning.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.