It’s not often that Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is given a three-run lead and can’t make it hold up. But on Saturday night, the Texas Rangers — the team that has given him more trouble than any other — got to him once again.
Hernandez squandered a 3-0 lead in an uneven start and could only watch as the Rangers scratched a run across in the eighth inning and added two more in the ninth against the Seattle bullpen in a 6-3 loss at Safeco Field.
It was the seventh straight start that Hernandez has failed to register a win against the Rangers. The Mariners have lost his last four starts against Texas.
Hernandez knew he wasted an opportunity to change that trend.
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“It’s frustrating,” Hernandez said. “It can’t happen again. They gave me three runs and I blew it. That’s not good.”
The game started with promise for Seattle (9-14) as it got that 3-0 lead.
In his first appearance as the leadoff hitter this season, Michael Saunders announced his presence immediately by crushing a solo home run to deep right-center off Rangers starter Colby Lewis to give the Mariners an immediate 1-0 lead.
Kyle Seager pushed the lead to 2-0, leading off the second inning with a solo homer to right field.
Mike Zunino’s sacrifice fly in the fourth inning made it 3-0.
But the lead disappeared in a momentary lapse of command from Hernandez in the fifth inning.
It was a very non-typical stretch for Hernandez. He gave up three straight singles to start the inning.
“They were swinging at the first pitch and I made a mistake and left pitches in the middle of the plate,” he said.
From there, he walked Robinson Chirinos — the No. 9 hitter — on four pitches to bring in a run.
“I don’t even remember the last time I walked somebody on four straight pitches with the bases loaded,” he said.
Michael Choice followed with an RBI single to left and Elvis Andrus drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to tie the score. Hernandez was able to settle down and get Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre to ground out to end the inning and limit the damage. But it was clear he was angry with himself.
“He seemed to elevate some balls,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “They were strikes, but they weren’t quality strikes from him — the type of strikes we know he’s capable of throwing. He proved that he was human. It happens.”
Hernandez worked the sixth inning and was done. He allowed three runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
Reliever Charlie Furbush took the loss after hitting Fielder to start the eighth inning with a slider. It would be the only batter he faced.
“It was the pitch I wanted to throw,” Furbush said. “I just lost it out of my hand.”
McClendon called on Yoervis Medina to face former Mariner Beltre, who immediately singled up the middle. Fielder moved to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on Mitch Moreland’s sacrifice fly to left field for the go-ahead run. Texas got two runs off Joe Beimel in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
While Hernandez couldn’t hold the three-run lead, Seattle could have scored more.
In the fourth inning, when Zunino got his sacrifice fly off Lewis, the Mariners still had runners on the corners with one out. But Brad Miller chased a first pitch out of the strike zone, popping out to shallow left, and Saunders struck out looking.
“It was very disappointing,” McClendon said. “I thought that was the deciding inning for us as far as the ballgame was concerned. We certainly had the opportunity to blow it open right there and didn’t get it done.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373