SEATTLE — For Felix Hernandez, a brilliant season ended with a thud Monday at Safeco Field.
And for the Angels, their playoff hopes ended just as anticlimactically, despite an 8-4 victory over the Mariners.
While the Mariners were batting in the bottom of the eighth inning, the A’s completed a victory over Texas, thereby knocking the Angels out of contention for the American League’s final wild-card berth. They needed to sweep the Mariners and have the Rangers sweep Oakland, to stay alive.
Hernandez, meanwhile, turned in one of his rockiest outings. He gave up a season-high 12 hits (to go with three walks) and was touched for seven runs in 5-1/3 innings.
“It’s not the way to end the season,” Hernandez said.
The upshot: Hernandez’s earned-run average rose from 2.86 to a final mark of 3.06, effectively ending any last vestige of hope that he might work his way back into the Cy Young Award equation with a season-ending gem.
“I left fastballs in the middle of the plate, left a couple of pitches up, and I fell behind a lot, too,” he said.
Hernandez was the undeniable Cy Young favorite when he fired a five-hitter to beat the Twins 1-0 on Aug. 27 — his ninth straight victory, with four of them shutouts and one a perfect game.
But in the six starts that followed, Hernandez went 0-4 with a 6.62 earned-run average. He finishes the year 13-9 with 223 strikeouts in 232 innings. Hernandez was surpassed down the stretch by, among others, last year’s Cy Young winner, Justin Verlander, and Tampa Bay’s David Price. Angels starter Jered Weaver, who starts the Angels’ season finale on Wednesday, can make his own strong case with a 20-4 record and 2.73 ERA.
“This game shouldn’t take anything away from his season,” manager Eric Wedge said. “It was another fantastic year by Felix. As we continue to improve, especially on the offensive side, a guy like Felix or (Jason) Vargas are going to really benefit from that.
“They know that. They see the way our kids are grinding, and how individuals are getting better. They understand our plan and the foundation we’re trying to set, and they’re on board with it. That’s about as important as can be, because they’re two leaders of our club.”
Assessing his season, Hernandez said, “It was fine. It was OK. I need to get better. That’s it.”
What does he need to improve on?
“I need to pitch better against the Angels,” Hernandez said, referring to his 0-3 mark against them this year in six starts.
Despite his skid, Hernandez said he felt good physically.
“If they need me in the bullpen tomorrow, I’ll be ready,” he said. “Just kidding. It’s not the way to end it, but I’m glad I’m healthy. I’ve been healthy all year.”
For the Angels, sensational rookie Mike Trout had another signature night. He went 4 for 5, including a triple, double and two singles, driving in three runs and scoring two. He came up against Hector Noesi in the eighth inning needing a home run to hit for the cycle — one of the few feats not yet achieved by Trout. But he grounded out to third.
Trout finished the night with a .325 average — four points behind his top competitor for the Most Valuable Player Award, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who is gunning for the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
It was apparent early this wasn’t Hernandez’s night. Trout led off by rocketing a double, and came home on Albert Pujols’ one-out double off the center-field wall. Mark Trumbo later singled home Pujols, and Howie Kendrick added another RBI single — one of his four hits.
From that point on, Hernandez was under siege in most innings — except for the fifth, when he struck out the side. But in the sixth, the Angels unloaded four more hits — including a triple by Trout. Torii Hunter singled to drive in Trout with the Angels’ seventh run, knocking out Hernandez.
Hernandez, who provided the Mariners’ top moment of 2012 with his perfect game against Tampa Bay on Aug. 15, left to a standing ovation from the crowd of 13,963.
“It’s obviously a little quiet in our clubhouse,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said afterward. “We fell short, but we’re going to take the positives and move forward and hopefully finish strong.”