Felix Hernandez finished tied for the majorleague lead with 19 wins and the Seattle Mariners beat the TexasRangers 4-3 Sunday in a season finale that doubled as a daylongtribute to Ken Griffey Jr.
The 39-year-old Seattle icon finished his one-year contract withthe Mariners by going 1 for 4. Griffey has said he would beinterested in playing another season if the team wants him.
Griffey wiped away tears when he came back onto the field forpostgame handshakes and hugs.
Griffey then joined his teammates in circling the perimeter ofthe field. He tossed rolled up T-shirts into the cheering crowd,one of the most joyous endings imaginable for a third-place team.
Four of his teammates then carried Griffey on their shouldersfrom left field to the Mariners dugout on the first-base side.Griffey beamed and waved his cap some more, looking like a kingbeing paraded in a makeshift chariot.
Vendors outside the park yelled they had special commemorativeGriffey game programs for sale before the game. A fan behind theMariners' dugout held a sign that said "Come back JR." Griffeyposed for pictures on the field just before the first pitch withnostalgic, individual teammates and with longtime team trainer RickGriffin, who was with the Mariners in 1989 when Griffey debuted asa grinning, gifted teenager.
Griffey got a standing ovation before each of his at-bats, withchants of "One more year!" slicing through the chilly air eachtime. After his sharp single off C.J. Wilson, Griffey was replacedby pinch-runner Michael Saunders then tipped his batting helmet,waved it around the park and flashed a hand salute, drawing moreroars.
The fans didn't stop until after Griffey emerged from the dugoutfor a curtain call. The slugger was biting his lower lip as hetipped his helmet one more time.
Neither Griffey nor the club has made a commitment to nextseason. Griffey hit three home runs in his final five games,finishing with 19 home runs this season and 630 in his career.
Saturday night, Griffey said, "we're still kicking it around.... Hopefully, it works out."
Hernandez (19-5) struck out six - finishing with 217 strikeouts,fourth-most in the AL - and walked one. He left with two outs inthe seventh, after consecutive RBI groundouts by Chris Davis andTaylor Teagarden. He laughed at something said by rookie managerDon Wakamatsu, tipped his cap to the roaring, standing crowd,shared a hug and a goofy hopping dance with Griffey in the dugoutand blew a kiss into a TV camera.
Hernandez finished with a 2.49 ERA, second in the AL to the 2.16of Kansas City's Zack Greinke, another of his competitors in the CyYoung Award race. Hernandez's .792 winning percentage was the AL'sbest, ahead of Josh Beckett's .739 (17-6).
Hernandez went 15-2 with a 1.98 ERA after Wakamatsu called himout for not stepping up during a sloppy loss to the Angels on May19.
Ian Kinsler doubled and scored two runs for Texas, whichfinished 8-15 after reaching a season-high 19 games over .500. Asurprising run for the AL West title ended with elimination Mondayat the division-champion Los Angeles Angels - months after mostthought it would. It was Texas' latest elimination from postseasoncontention since 2004, its last winning season.
The Rangers (87-75) finished with the fourth-best record in theAL. This is the first time they have finished second or better inconsecutive seasons since they won the division in 1998 and '99.
Franklin Gutierrez, who had a career year after arriving fromCleveland in the trade of closer J.J. Putz, doubled home JoshWilson for the second time in as many at bats off Scott Feldman(17-7), to put Seattle up 2-1 in the fifth. Jose Lopez then doubledhome Ichiro Suzuki and Gutierrez to make it 4-1.
Lopez's career year ended with 25 homers and 96 RBIs. Histeam-leading 42nd double allowed him to finish with a season-high13-game hitting streak.
NOTES: The Mariners (85-77) became the 13th team since 1901 tofinish with a winning record the season after losing 100 games. Ofthose other dozen turnaround teams, only the 1989 Baltimore Oriolesand the 1967 Chicago Cubs had more than Seattle's 85 victories thisseason. Those Orioles and Cubs had 87 wins.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times