SEATTLE — Felix Hernandez was rolling, painting corners with fastballs, getting batters flailing at his sinking changeup and riling up his little corner of Safeco Field that kept cheering his strikeouts.
And yet, the Mariners ace was getting outpitched by the Angels Hector Santiago.
"Santiago was very good. Obviously he kept us off balance, and he can do that to you," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "Felix matched him. Gave up a few more hits but Felix has very good stuff today, threw the ball very well. We were right there. Tight game, just didn't get much going offensively."
Santiago pitched eight innings of two-hit ball and Daniel Nava's two-run, two-out single in the eighth inning gave the Angels the cushion they needed to beat the Mariners 3-0 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.
The Angels were reeling when they arrived in Seattle, having lost six straight and seemed the perfect opponent for the rolling Mariners. Instead, Seattle's early momentum was stymied, and Los Angeles knocked the Mariners from first place in the AL West.
Seattle was swept for the second time this season — both at home. But this one featured the Mariners blowing ninth-inning leads twice and then getting a solid performance from Hernandez only to get zero offensive support.
"We were right in every game, we just didn't get it done. It's going to happen," Servais said. "As high as we were early in the week, to have it flip on us on the weekend is frustrating, but we've played well on the road."
Hernandez (3-3) was shaky early, dominant in the middle and managed his pitch count in the later innings. Hernandez had left runners in scoring position in the first two innings before starting on a dominant strikeout streak in the third inning. Hernandez recorded eight straight outs via strikeout. He struck out the side in the third sandwiched around a single by Mike Trout, struck out the side in order in the fourth and set down Gregorio Petit and Yunel Escobar in the fifth before Kole Calhoun's RBI single.
Hernandez finished with nine strikeouts but was responsible for all three runs.
"It was good today. It was the best game I've thrown the whole year," Hernandez said. "I just got to continue doing that and I'll be fine."
But Santiago was dominant, allowing just two hits overall, the first not coming until the sixth inning when Shawn O'Malley led off with a bunt single that Santiago mishandled on the transfer. Chris Iannetta had Seattle's only other hit with a line drive single in the seventh. Santiago (3-2) struck out five, allowed only one base runner to reach second base and matched a career high in innings pitched.
Santiago was helped by some nifty defensive plays by Petit, Escobar and C.J. Cron to help take away potential hits. O'Malley led off the sixth with a bunt up the first base line that Santiago mishandled and was ruled a hit. Iannetta put an end to the debate about the ruling on the bunt hit with a solid single with two outs in the seventh inning, but that was it for offense against the left-hander.
"I feel like if I'm in that situation then I'm pitching good and getting zeros," Santiago said. "If they get 10 hits and I put up six or seven zeros I'm happy just the same."
The Angels didn't have a cushion until Nava came through in the eighth inning. Reliever Nick Vincent got Albert Pujols to ground out for the second out, but Nava guided a hard grounder into left field to score the pair and give the Angels a three-run lead.
Mariners: RHP Joaquin Benoit (shoulder) will go with Seattle on its road trip but there is no set date on when he will be activated from the DL. Benoit hasn't pitched since April 22.
Mariners: Seattle is off today before opening a six-game trip on Tuesday in Baltimore.