SEATTLE—Felix Hernandez finished tied for the major league lead with 19 wins and the Seattle Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 4-3 Sunday in a season finale that doubled as a daylong tribute to Ken Griffey Jr.
The 39-year-old Seattle icon finished his one-year contract with the Mariners by going 1 for 4. Griffey has said he would be interested in playing another season if the team wants him.
Griffey wiped away tears when he came back onto the field for postgame handshakes and hugs.
Griffey then joined his teammates in circling the perimeter of the 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 shoulders from left field to the Mariners dugout on the first-base side. Griffey beamed and waved his cap some more, looking like a king being paraded in a makeshift chariot.
Vendors outside the park yelled they had special commemorative Griffey game programs for sale before the game. A fan behind the Mariners' dugout held a sign that said "Come back JR." Griffey posed for pictures on the field just before the first pitch with nostalgic, individual teammates and with longtime team trainer Rick Griffin, who was with the Mariners in 1989 when Griffey debuted as a grinning, gifted teenager.
Griffey got a standing ovation before each of his at-bats, with chants of "One more year!" slicing through the chilly air each time. After his sharp single off C.J. Wilson, Griffey was replaced by pinch-runner Michael Saunders then tipped his batting helmet, waved it around the park and flashed a hand salute, drawing more roars.
The fans didn't stop until after Griffey emerged from the dugout for a curtain call. The slugger was biting his lower lip as he tipped his helmet one more time.
Neither Griffey nor the club has made a commitment to next season. 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 in the seventh, after consecutive RBI groundouts by Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden. He laughed at something said by rookie manager Don Wakamatsu, tipped his cap to the roaring, standing crowd, shared a hug and a goofy hopping dance with Griffey in the dugout and blew a kiss into a TV camera.
Hernandez finished with a 2.49 ERA, second in the AL to the 2.16 of Kansas City's Zack Greinke, another of his competitors in the Cy Young Award race. Hernandez's .792 winning percentage was the AL's best, ahead of Josh Beckett's .739 (17-6).
Hernandez went 15-2 with a 1.98 ERA after Wakamatsu called him out for not stepping up during a sloppy loss to the Angels on May 19.
Ian Kinsler doubled and scored two runs for Texas, which finished 8-15 after reaching a season-high 19 games over .500. A surprising run for the AL West title ended with elimination Monday at the division-champion Los Angeles Angels - months after most thought it would. It was Texas' latest elimination from postseason contention since 2004, its last winning season.
The Rangers (87-75) finished with the fourth-best record in the AL. This is the first time they have finished second or better in consecutive seasons since they won the division in 1998 and '99.
Franklin Gutierrez, who had a career year after arriving from Cleveland in the trade of closer J.J. Putz, doubled home Josh Wilson 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 doubled home Ichiro Suzuki and Gutierrez to make it 4-1.
Lopez's career year ended with 25 homers and 96 RBIs. His team-leading 42nd double allowed him to finish with a season-high 13-game hitting streak.
NOTES: The Mariners (85-77) became the 13th team since 1901 to finish with a winning record the season after losing 100 games. Of those other dozen turnaround teams, only the 1989 Baltimore Orioles and the 1967 Chicago Cubs had more than Seattle's 85 victories this season. Those Orioles and Cubs had 87 wins.