As if the Mariners didn't have enough to worry about — or freak out over, depending on your point of view — now comes a troublesome...
As if the Mariners didn’t have enough to worry about — or freak out over, depending on your point of view — now comes a troublesome bout of mortality for Felix Hernandez.
The Mariners on Saturday were looking for King Felix to halt a long slump, as he has done so many times. But on a night in which the Mariners feted his 2012 perfect game with a bobblehead giveaway and packed the King’s Court, Hernandez had an imperfect showing in Seattle’s 5-2 loss to the Rangers.
“I wanted this one really bad,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to win for our team and our fans. It’s tough.”
The Mariners’ losing streak thus reached eight games, but of more immediate concern is the fact that the Rangers touched Hernandez for 11 hits and five runs in 5-2/3 shaky innings. He did strike out nine, but over his last two starts, Hernandez has given up 19 hits and 11 runs (10 earned) in 10-2/3 innings.
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“I definitely liked my stuff,” Hernandez said. “They put up great at-bats, put the ball in play and found some holes. I make good pitches and they still hit it. It was a hard battle.”
His earned-run average, which stood at a stately 1.53 after a May 14 start at Yankee Stadium, has shot up to 2.51. May has never been a great month for Hernandez — in 43 career starts in May heading into this one, he had a 12-21 record and 4.44 ERA, by far his worst showing of any month.
But this May had been going just great for Hernandez until that start against the Yankees, in which he left after six innings with lower back tightness. This time out, in front of 35,022 fans — the biggest crowd at Safeco since the home opener — he failed to retire the Rangers in order in any inning, and gave up a homer to Nelson Cruz in the fifth.
Hernandez insisted his back is not an issue, as he had after his previous sub-par outing against Cleveland.
“I feel fine. It’s not that,” he said. “But it can’t happen anymore. I have to go out and do something about it.”
The Mariners, meanwhile, have to find a way to break out of their slide if they want to have any chance of salvaging the season. They received more bad news during the game when first baseman Justin Smoak strained his oblique, possibly on a checked swing in the first inning. He was later removed for a pinch-hitter and will be re-evaluated on Sunday.
Manager Eric Wedge admitted it was a blow to lose again with their ace on the mound.
“It’s tough, but we’re all so passionate about Felix,” he said. “He cares as much, if not more, than anybody. This is where you’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to stay determined, stay persistent. You have to come to the ballpark and keep knocking on that wall. When you get in stretches like this, it’s tough to win a big-league ballgame. But you have to keep coming here and keep pounding and keep pounding and keep expecting good things to happen.”
Hernandez’s results could have been even worse. The Rangers lost a run on a brilliant block of home plate by catcher Kelly Shoppach in the second inning to cut down A.J. Pierzynski, and had a rally cut short by a great leaping catch at the center-field wall by Michael Saunders on a drive by David Murphy in the fourth.
Murphy still did considerable damage, however. He had a two-out, two-run double to cap a three-run second by Texas. That was the second time in as many starts Hernandez has allowed three runs in an inning, after not giving up a three-run inning in his first nine starts this season.
Murphy also drove in the last run charged to Hernandez with a two-out single off reliever Oliver Perez in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Rangers starter Derek Holland threatens to replace Joe Saunders as the reigning Safeco Field dominator. He came into the game with a 2-0 record and 16-2/3 scoreless innings in two previous starts at Safeco, and limited the Mariners to four hits over 6-2/3 innings in this one.
The Mariners, at least, finally scored off Holland at Safeco with two runs in the third — both unearned. Those came courtesy of a booming two-out double off the top of the right-field wall by Kendrys Morales, after the inning had been prolonged by an error from shortstop Elvis Andrus. But the Mariners got only one more runner to second base off Holland, who struck out a season-high 10.