Mathematically, the Seattle Mariners weren’t eliminated Tuesday night from the postseason hunt after a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
It just felt like it.
This was a game the Mariners had to win to keep hope alive. They had Felix Hernandez on the mound.
Not only does the King typically own the Angels — he’s given up two earned runs in 27 innings this year in four previous starts.
But the Angels ran out Nick Tropeano, who spent much of the summer getting battered at a 5.22 clip at Triple-A Salt Lake in the Pacific Coast League.
It didn’t go to form. Hernandez gave up homers to David Murphy and Mike Trout. And that was enough. And so …
Losing this one dimmed the Mariners’ postseason dreams to the color of Guinness Stout. They are 70-76 with 16 games to go and trail Houston by 7 1/2 games for the American League’s final wild card spot. (The Astros surrendered first place in the AL West by losing Tuesday at now-first place Texas.)
Also worth noting: The Mariners’ 76 losses are one more than they had a year ago, when they remained in the postseason hunt until midway through the season’s final game.
Hernandez (17-9) was attempting to become the AL’s first 18-game winner. He can still reach 20 for the first time in his career by winning his final three starts.
Tropeano (2-2) lasted just five innings but handed a 4-2 lead to reliever Jose Alvarez. The Angels then closed out Tropeano’s victory with Fernando Salas, Trevor Gott and Joe Smith.
The Mariners staked Hernandez to an early lead on Nelson Cruz’s two-out homer in the first inning. Cruz belted a a hanging slider over the center-field wall for his 42nd homer of the season.
The blast pulled Cruz back into a tie with former Baltimore teammate Chris Davis for the major league lead.
Hernandez began the Angels’ third by nicking David Freese with a pitch. Somehow, that prompted a warning from umpire Alan Porter. Carlos Perez followed with an infield single on a slow grounder to short.
Taylor Featherston struck out by missing a two-strike bunt, but Murphy golfed a first-pitch sinker to right with enough carry to clear the wall for a three-run homer.
The Mariners got one run back in the fourth on a gift.
With Seth Smith on first with one out, Franklin Gutierrez lined a single that Murphy cut off in the gap — even as third-base coach Rich Donnelly waved Smith home.
It should have been an easy out, but shortstop Erick Aybar took the throw, spun — and threw to second. Smith scored. From first. On a single to left.
The Angels answered with Trout’s leadoff homer in the sixth on an 0-2 fastball. That turned into the winning run when Gutierrez started the seventh with a homer against Salas.
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