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Scoring change boosts Felix's chances for ERA title

SEATTLE -- A scoring change by Major League Baseball giving an error to Felix Hernandez on a dropped bunt in the fifth inning in his last start in Toronto has given the Mariners ace a chance at the American League ERA title.

Hernandez was originally charged with a career-high seven earned runs in the inning, raising his ERA to 2.34 with one start remaining in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Angels. But the scoring change removes four of the earned runs from that frame, giving him four earned runs out of the eight allowed total in Tuesday's 10-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

Thus Hernandez's ERA is now at 2.18, one tick behind the league-leading 2.17 of Chris Sale of the White Sox. Sale is finished for the season.

"That's nice," Hernandez said of his new life at the ERA crown. "That was an error, for sure. I should have made that play. It was an error."

Hernandez had the lowest ERA in the AL in his Cy Young Award season in 2010 at 2.27 and now has a shot both at a new career low and a second ERA title. How much would having the lowest ERA in the league mean to him?

"I'm always thinking about it every year," said the 10-year veteran. "Every year I'm trying to be one of the best in the league. I've got one more [start]. I've got to do it."

The play in question came after Hernandez gave up a leadoff homer to Dalton Pompey and a double by Anthony Gose. Josh Thole then dropped a bunt down the third base line and Hernandez went to field it, but didn't pick the ball up cleanly and Thole was safe at first.

Hernandez went on to allow a sacrifice fly, single, two walks, a single, a run-scoring ground out and another walk before being replaced with two out. Reliever Dominic Leone gave up a two-run single to allow Hernandez's final two runs to score.

As it does with any questionable scoring decision, the Mariners' baseball operations department submitted the play to MLB for review, and the decision to change it came back on Saturday.

"Rightfully so," manager Lloyd McClendon said before Saturday's game with the Angels. "It's an error. It's a play you should make. If you ask Felix, he'd tell you, 'Yeah, I should make that play.' It was right there. He just came up on it. I'm happy for Felix, and he's got an opportunity tomorrow to win an ERA title."

Without the change, Hernandez would have needed to pitch 16 scoreless innings to get his ERA down to Sale's 2.17, which obviously wasn't going to happen with just one start remaining. McClendon acknowledged the timing of the decision made for an interesting circumstance.

"It is," he said. "But it was the right call. I don't think there was any inside favors or anything. It was the right call to make and it was a pretty simple cal, really, if you think about it. And he's got an opportunity as a result."

Greg Johns is a reporter for
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