ANAHEIM, Calif. — The first collapse was stunning in its quickness, with seven consecutive hits taking down ace Felix Hernandez like some middling No. 5 starter.
Then came the slower, more excruciating end to this epic Mariners defeat — a 10-9 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, despite the best efforts of Kyle Seager to prevent it.
Even after Seager had given the Mariners a lead in the eighth with his fourth hit of the game — and second double to go with a home run and a single — the current state of the Seattle bullpen left little room for faith. And that faith was shattered in the bottom of the inning, when Carter Capps yielded a pair of runs that ended this road trip with crushing finality.
“That’s a tough game from an emotional standpoint,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “When you take that big lead and you do a lot of good things and you give it back.’’
Not just once, but twice.
Three straight singles by Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and Mike Trout off Capps tied the score at 9-9. Yoervis Medina came on from there and notched two outs thanks to some stellar fielding behind him — especially on a diving stop by Brendan Ryan.
But then Medina walked Alberto Callaspo on four pitches to force in the go-ahead run and ignite the Angel Stadium crowd of 37,711 one final time. The Mariners didn’t score in the ninth, despite a long drive to right by Justin Smoak caught at the wall by Josh Hamilton.
It was the second-largest blown lead by the Mariners in team history, surpassed only by a 12-run collapse to the Cleveland Indians in 2001. But given the circumstances and who was on the mound, the repercussions of this one could linger.
Seattle finished its road trip a disappointing 3-4, dropping four of the final five contests and falling 10 games below .500.
A two-run homer by Seager helped Seattle take a 3-0 lead off Angels starter Tommy Hanson.
Then, four more runs in the third made it 7-0 and it was 8-1 by the fourth.
But it all fell apart from there, with home runs by Bourjos and Mark Trumbo off Hernandez and a four-hit game by Trout playing a role.
“I just blew the lead and it’s all my fault,’’ Hernandez said. “Nobody else, it’s just me.’’
The Angels scored a run in the fourth and then blitzed Hernandez mercilessly in the fifth, as Bourjos opened with a solo home run, then Aybar, Trout and Pujols followed with singles to make it an 8-4 game and bring Trumbo to the plate with two on.
Moments later, Hernandez threw Trumbo a 1-2 curveball and watched him crush it over the wall in left center. The Mariners tried frantically to get Danny Farquhar warmed up in the bullpen.
But the hit parade wouldn’t stop.
Hernandez served up two more singles — the first time he’s ever yielded seven hits in an inning, let alone consecutively — before getting out of it.
“I was the same,’’ Hernandez said of his approach pitching with the huge lead. “I just left pitches up. They were being aggressive.’’
Hernandez said he was flying too wide open in his mechanics and rushing to the plate. He had a long chat — in Spanish — by his locker postgame with both catcher Henry Blanco and slugger Kendrys Morales.
It was a subdued, somewhat stunned clubhouse given all that had transpired.
“I’ll try to forget it as quickly as possible,’’ shortstop Ryan said. “It won’t be the happiest plane flight.’’
Ryan said the biggest disappointment was that the defeat came on a night the Mariners finally got their offense going. It was the first time all season the Mariners lost when leading by two runs.
“We’re not built to put up 15,’’ Ryan said. “But we are built to hold on to the tight leads and win games when we’re ahead.’’
Especially with Hernandez on the mound in the biggest game of the trip and possibly the season.