Morales hits walkoff grand slam as Angels beat Mariners 5-1 in 10
Kendry Morales' winning hit ended Seattle's three-game winning streak, but the first baseman suffers leg injury crossing the plate.
Seattle Times staff reporter
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Felix Hernandez wasn't beating himself up over the one pitch to a good buddy that changed the outcome of this game.
Hernandez was throwing his best game all season on Saturday, his Mariners clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth, when former Team Venezuela pal Bobby Abreu got hold of a sinker and sent it over the wall. It seemed only a matter of time from there that defeat would come, this one a 5-1 loss in 10 innings to the Los Angeles Angels on a Kendry Morales grand slam off reliever Brandon League.
But Hernandez wasn't kicking himself for throwing Abreu a sinker he admits the veteran hitter probably knew was coming. And he said his Mariners should not be getting down on themselves over their American League West chances just yet; chances that may have been altered by some stunning postgame developments in which Morales suffered a broken leg while leaping into a celebratory pile of players after his decisive homer.
"We've still got a lot of baseball to play," said Hernandez, who went eight-plus innings, allowing just the one run while striking out seven. "For me, it's early in the season. We've got to play game by game, inning by inning and see what happens. But we've been playing better. Now, we just have to be patient. We can't keep looking ahead. Just play good baseball right now."
The Mariners nearly pulled this one off, despite just four hits and an unearned run over 10 innings off Angels starter Jered Weaver and the bullpen. If there was a game in this series most had thought the Mariners might lose, it was this middle contest against an Angels ace who made pitches when he had to.
Weaver saw the Mariners score their only run on a two-base throwing error by Erick Aybar in the fourth, but notched key strikeouts on Milton Bradley with two on in both the first and third innings to keep things close. Then, with Hernandez five outs from victory, leading 1-0, Abreu made it a brand new contest.
"Everybody knows I'm going to throw a sinker there," Hernandez said. "It's my best pitch. But he's still got to be able to hit it. I got it down, I got it away and he still hit it. That's baseball. What can you do?"
Perhaps that's why the Mariners, despite dropping a heartbreaker to their division rivals in front of 39,382 fans at Angel Stadium, did not seem the more downcast of the two clubs afterward. The Angels were downright miserable, given the postgame turn of events that transformed the Morales walkoff slam into being carted off.
Morales landed funny, went down in a heap under a pile of teammates, then lay on the ground for several agonizing minutes. A cart and stretcher were finally brought out to wheel him off with a suspected broken ankle that could sideline him several months. The Angels said he broke his leg and will have surgery Sunday and be out possibly the rest of the season.
Coupled with a hand injury to Torii Hunter, struck by a Hernandez pitch in the first inning, the Angels will be without two of their best hitters for Sunday's series finale. An X-ray on Hunter's hand showed only bruising and no broken bones, so he'll likely be back when these teams meet up again next weekend in Seattle.
But Morales, who leads the Angels with 11 homers and 39 runs batted in, is another story. The mood inside the Angels' clubhouse was one of dread, knowing their most serious lineup threat could be out for several months.
In other words, the Angels would have gladly traded the win in this one if they didn't have to lose Morales. Instead, they had to settle for beating the Mariners after longtime Angels infielder Chone Figgins bobbled a one-out grounder by the speedy Reggie Willits with two on in the 10th.
Figgins said he knew he had no chance of turning a double play with Willits — who'd come on to replace the injured Hunter — sprinting up the line.
"I was setting up to throw to first and at the last minute, it kicked up on me," Figgins said of the grounder, which took a late hop and skipped off his glove.
One pitch later, the ball was over the wall and the game was done.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu praised the outing by Hernandez, who was allowed to go out for the ninth on 106 pitches, but was pulled when he walked the leadoff batter. League came on and retired the side, then looked to have a way out of the 10th before Figgins' bobble.
"Again, it comes back to not having a whole lot of offense today," Wakamatsu said. "I thought we were pretty aggressive on the bases, obviously, with four stolen bases. But no big hits."
Instead, the biggest blow suffered by their opponent turned out to be self-inflicted. It remains to be seen whether the Mariners can take advantage in these crucial games and weeks to come.
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