ARLINGTON -- A relatively meaningless late-season game between the Mariners and Rangers took on a great deal more significance for Seattle on Saturday when ace Felix Hernandez took a hard line drive off his right forearm in the fourth inning of what turned out to be a 7-3 loss.
Hernandez was hustled immediately off the field, though X-rays revealed no fracture and he suffered only a severely bruised forearm in what already was to have been his final start of the season.
But while Hernandez turned out to be OK, wearing a cast postgame to protect the swelling, Seattle manager Eric Wedge was far from alright after witnessing a sloppy outing that wasn't acceptable to him regardless of the circumstances.
"That was one of our worst games, if not the worst game, of the year," Wedge said after a postgame gathering with his club. "Unacceptable. Ugly. It's not what I'm about. It's not what we're about.
"I don't [care] if we've got three games left or 103, that's unacceptable, and we're not going to allow that to happen."
The Mariners committed three errors and had numerous other miscues with the ball flying around as defenders chased down errant throws or let makeable plays slip past their gloves.
"Sometimes you get bad luck in one inning and look like you've never played baseball before," said catcher Miguel Olivo, who came away unscathed from his own collision with the backstop just before Hernandez's injury. "It happens in baseball. We got unlucky to have one today like that. It was nobody's day today."
The Rangers, who clinched the American League West title on Friday night, played six reserves and took starting pitcher Alexi Ogando out after just two innings.
Hernandez wound up following him two innings later, but for a far different reason. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner has been one of the Major Leagues' ironmen with four straight seasons of 200-plus innings, remaining injury-free throughout. Saturday's 3 1/3-inning outing was his shortest start since being knocked out by the Angels after 3 1/3 innings on May 7, 2010.
The Rangers already were getting to Hernandez in his final outing, however, and he wound up being charged with seven runs -- five earned -- on 12 hits.
"He was up against it," said Wedge. "This is a guy that has really worn it, and he wore it last year in regard to lack of run support. But one thing we've done a decent job of is catching the ball. And today we didn't catch the ball.
"I don't care how good you are," Wedge said. "Felix is one of the best in the game, but you have to have your teammates catch the baseball. And it wasn't just the errors, it was some of the other plays that weren't made."
Hernandez finished the year with a 14-14 record and 3.47 ERA, the first pitcher in franchise history with three seasons with at least 30 starts, 200 strikeouts, 200 innings and an ERA under 3.50.
The fourth inning was already in some disarray even before Hernandez was hurt. Leading, 2-1, Hernandez gave up a single to Leonys Martin and hit Craig Gentry. Andres Blanco then hit a roller back up the middle that Hernandez let go at the last second so Dustin Ackley could field it at second for a possible double play.
But Gentry ducked under Ackley's tag and the Seattle second baseman didn't have time to throw to first, leaving the bases loaded. Estaban German then singled to left to drive in one run, Endy Chavez singled to left for another and David Murphy drove a ball up the middle under the glove of rookie shortstop Kyle Seager for a two-run hit.
Things already unraveling, Hernandez then took Michael Young's screaming line drive flush in his arm, spinning off the mound in pain as Young wound up at first to load the bases.
"It was a weird game," said Hernandez. "But it happens. This is baseball. It's my last start, so I just need to be ready for next year."
Jeff Gray replaced Hernandez and didn't help matters when he got Mitch Moreland on a comebacker to the side of the mound, but threw wide of Olivo at the plate. Olivo's throw then went wide of Gray on the way back and another run scored to make it 7-3.
Olivo appeared hurt earlier in that same frame when he slid hard into the backstop and jammed his right knee chasing a foul pop by Martin. But after trainers huddled around him, Olivo got up and stayed in the game.
"My knee is great. I worry about the wall, though," Olivo said with a wry grin. "This was a tough day today."
The Mariners, who again started five rookies, dropped their third straight and now sit 66-92 with four games remaining. Wedge said he's already talked to several players and would continue his conversations to make sure his team understands how the game needs to be played even in these closing days.
"You talk about respecting the big leagues and understanding how hard it is and what it can do to you if you're not, that was a great example of it," he said. "It can get ugly real quick
"Our kids have done a hell of a job hanging in there. You haven't seen too many of those moments this year. That may have been the ugliest inning we've had all year. And for the kids we've been running out there, that says a lot about them. Having said that, it happened today. And that can't happen."