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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 6, 2008 2:13 PM

M's blow it in ninth

Posted by Geoff Baker

orioles3 006.jpg

OK, I'm back up from the clubhouse. I did ask John McLaren about pulling Felix Hernandez after eight. Also asked Hernandez and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre about it. Some of you are not going to like this, but Hernandez took all the heat off his manager today.

It seems that Stottlemyre asked Hernandez after the eighth whether he wanted to continue, given his pitch count being at only 97. Hernandez usually insists on going back in. This time, he did not. He told them he wasn't feeling 100 percent and thought Eric O'Flaherty could better handle things with three lefties due up among the first four batters. Hernandez threw his bullpen session two days ago instead of the normal three days he would take before a game. Remember, Hernandez was pressed into service because of Erik Bedard pulling up lame. Hernandez says the one fewer day of rest after his bullpen session made a difference today, enough that he wasn't fully ready to tackle the ninth and did not want to put his team in a bind.

Very unusual for Hernandez to say that.

It was still a shocking loss here by the M's, dropping a 3-2 game to the Baltimore Orioles after taking a 2-0 lead into the ninth. Eric O'Flaherty gave up a leadoff double to Nick Markakis and an eventual run on a groundout. O'Flaherty also allowed the tying run on when Luke Scott singled through the right side with two out. Mark Lowe replaced O'Flaherty and allowed a single through the same right side by Jay Payton that left runners at the corners. Lowe then uncorked a wild pitch that brought Scott home to tie the game. Ramon Hernandez walked and Luis Hernandez then lined the game-winning single to center, sending the fans here into a frenzy, as you can see in the photo above.

Hernandez was brilliant, allowing just five hits through eight scoreless innings. The offense slumbered again today, but the pitching was there for eight innings. The pitching will have to be there as Seattle sifts through its early-season hitting and bullpen woes. I'll be back in a bit with some quotes and clips. Just wanted to update you for the moment while I tackle our newspaper duties for a bit. As I said, Hernandez himself is saying he told McLaren and company they'd be better off going with the bullpen. Might just be enough to save McLaren from a public crucifixion this time around.

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